Rope is a 1948 thriller directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It is based on the play of the same name by Patrick Hamilton. The film itself has a play like feel as it is shot in real time, with only 10 cuts, which are carefully disguised to give the impression of only one shot. This was classed as most unconventional at the time- but Hitchcock liked this, “Hitchcock was interested in seeing whether he could find a cinematic equivalent to the play, which takes place in the actual length of time of the story.” (Canby, 1984). The effect this gives is the unequalled suspense of real life. It is as if the events are unfolding in front of you. A mixture of being immersed into the situation and knowing there is nothing you can do about it. The best example of this in the film is a scene in which the housekeeper is slowly clearing the “table” which is a trunk containing the dead body (Fig 1). The suspense comes in seeing her coming in and out of the room clearing the surface bit by bit.
|Body Hidden in Plain Sight|
The unfolding of time is not the only Stanislavskian element of the film. The acting is naturalistic adding to the immersive effect of the film. Just like in real life, there are no sound effects but Hitchcock has still managed to use sound to change the mood, For example, there are many a scene where all of the guests are chattering loudly and hectically, allowing you to revel in the stressful situation of Philip, who cannot deal with the possibility of being caught. Later on when Philip is being interrogated by Brandon, his piano playing gets quicker and quicker as he gets more stressed.
Another subtle element of the film is its use of colour, primarily the neon lights outside. As the film builds to a climax the neon lights because more and more prominent, and their flashing gets quicker. During the blowout discussion about the morals behind murder the lights flash red and green, evil and good.
There is something very Brideshead Revisited about the relationship between the two main characters Philip and Rupert. Being gay was very taboo in the 1940s which is perhaps why the film was in some regards ill received. There are homosexual undertones throughout the film – “After they kill David, they pop a bottle of champagne, as Brandon, with bated breath, shares his orgasmic exhilaration with Phillip. They go through the evening as a couple, hosting an elegant dinner party and talking about their prep school days, their trips to the country, and when they first met. After the dinner, Brandon plans on taking Phillip to Connecticut to spend a few weeks with his mother, before Phillip makes a Town Hall debut as a pianist.” (Thatcher, 2012). This is probably because the play/ film itself was based upon the killers Leopold and Leob, famed for there want to commit the perfect crime. It is well known that as their intimate relationship grew stronger, so did their crimes.
Canby V ,(1984), Hitchcock’s ‘Rope’: A Stunt to Behold at http://www.nytimes.com/1984/06/03/movies/hitchcock-s-rope-a-stunt-to-behold.html?pagewanted=1
Thatcher L (2012), Rope – Hitchcock Tricking You Into Seeing What’s “There” When It’s The Unspeakable “There.” At http://lisathatcher.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/rope-hitchcock-tricking-you-into-seeing-whats-there-when-its-the-unspeakable-there/
Still from Rope (1948) at http://lisathatcher.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/rope-hitchcock-tricking-you-into-seeing-whats-there-when-its-the-unspeakable-there/