A Year: Day to Day Men: 1st of September, Solar Year 2018
September 1, 1954 marks the release of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window”.
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 ‘Rear Window’ is a film full of symbolism, narratives, voyeurism and characterization. Hitchcock, a strong filmmaker, used similiar themes and specific signature motifs, such as character parallels and heavy use of vertical lines, as well as a strong protagonist. Hitchcock made a career out of indulging our voyeuristic tendencies. “Rear Window” is perhaps his most skillful and gleefully self-aware production.
“Rear Window” focuses around the main protagonist Jefferies, a photographer who recently broke his leg and is restricted to a wheelchair. In the opening scene where the credits are shown, the forthcoming storyline is presented and Hitchcock has created an opportunity to set the tone of the film. He also creates a great ambience, as a bamboo curtain is raised and the courtyard is shown, around which the whole film revolves.
The audience is shown life through Jefferies’ eyes. His window looks out onto a courtyard and displays a number of different windows representative of different lives in America in the 1950s. Each window represents a different style of living; and snippets of these characters lives with their different backgrounds are presented to Jefferies’ viewing.
These characters of “Rear Window”, although living so close to each other, barely interact or ever meet. All the actions of these different people through the windows and their stories flow together seamlessly: the music proceeding each scene leads the viewer to what will happen next. The noises and sounds in the film are a narrative device: a radio blaring or playing music, an alarm clock ringing, which shift the attention of the viewer from one apartment to another. Shots of panning and zooming by the cameramen make it more realistic as Jefferies shifts his binoculars from each apartment scene to another.
“Rear Window”s audience is constantly shown natural framing, which is a well-known theme in Hitchcocks films and truly represents him as a master filmmaker. There are constantly shots which are framed by openings such as; window frames, door frames and hallways. The use of binoculars by Hitchcock is symbolic; they intensify what Jefferies is seeing and isolate him from the actions that he observes. The setting in the film is also symbolic; Jefferies’ apartment, the courtyard, and the small alleyway are the only areas he can see, ultimately confining and trapping him.
The whole film was shot inside a Hollywood studio: yet the sense of the city’s atmosphere, noisy and breathless with its humid air, still is conveyed strongly to the viewer. The everyday domestic dramas unfold and James Stewart is their captive audience. The intensity of Stewart’s helplessness is subtly shown in one small ominous film scene unfolding before his eyes: the tip of the wife-killer Lars Thorwald’s cigar glowing red in the darkness of his living room after the neighbors’ strangled dog is found in the garden.