Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film “Rear Window” demonstrated a suspenseful and terrifying storyline, which captured the attention of a variety of audiences. The film focuses on James Stuart (Jeff) and ultimately his neighbors who live around him. Stuart is crippled from the beginning of the movie and is unable to leave his apartment. Due to his immobility, he remains confined in his home with a broken leg and begins to watch his neighbor’s particular behaviors and routines. The film progresses into drama and suspense that is seen through music, lighting, film editing processing and extensive detail to the neighborhood being watched.
Rear Window exhibits these details in the scene where Grace Kelly who plays the role of Lisa, attempts to investigate Thorwald’s home by breaking in. Sound plays a key element in the film Rear Window. Set in New York City, the busy city sounds such as traffic noises are heard as well as the noises and sounds of the apartment complex. It is in extremely hot summer season, and the courtyard of apartments that face each other all have their windows wide open. Music is an important sound element. The background music heard is suggested from a musician’s apartment or a neighbor’s radio and is carefully changed to fit the situation of the scene.
It helps create the mood and change the pace of the scene, which suggests emotion. Oddly in the scene where Lisa sneaks into Thorwald’s apartment she is dressed impeccably in a fine designer dress, high heels with a pearl necklace. She is a high fashion model who is illegally entering another person’s apartment. Yet the music is almost deliberate in its romantic sound quality and slower pace. It is a seductive sound as Jeff watches this atypical woman enter into a dangerous situation. Jeff is intrigued both with the mystery and danger in a way that makes Lisa more attractive to him.
It is also interesting that as Jeff becomes more involved in watching Thorwald’s apartment, the background noises become slighter and the music is more focused on what Jeff is concerned about. At this point in the film, it is apparent that Jeff is accepting that he is in love with Lisa. The narration of this film from Jeff’s viewpoint encourages the audience to identify with his point of view. Throughout the film we see his apartment and his belongings. We learn from these that he is adventurous and his business involves travel and photography.
He tells the story based on his view of the world through his living room window. He observes and listens to his neighbors and imagines or implies what he believes he sees’ and hears. The film sets the story up by presenting different characters and how they behave while giving background information on all of the neighbors that can be seen from the window. In the dramatic scene where Lisa enters Thorwald’s apartment we see the danger that Lisa is in while confronting a possible murderer. What is interesting is that what doesn’t come to mind is how Thorwald might feel in confronting an intruder into his apartment.
Up until now Jeff has solely been an observer in this film, which shows Frame Narration. Side story characters are not narrating, however there are many stories, which are learned in the story line. The neighbors are introduced and are discovered. “Rear Window” contains not only a first person perspective from Jeff, but small plots of the side with other characters. The scene concludes with Jeff becoming an active participant for the first time and involves someone outside of his apartment to the scene. When Thorwald attacks Lisa, Jeff calls the police and reports an altercation.
The dramatic scene and suspense begins when Lisa and the maid are shown in the courtyard from Jeff’s perspective up above. It becomes obvious in the courtyard while she stares up at the apartment that she is considering going into his home. This perspective uses parallel editing because Lisa is shown on the ground and is also shown in the apartment within seconds. The two scenes represent the idea and thought that once Lisa enters the house she is fully committed in her actions. As Lisa searches the apartment the camera zooms out into a panoramic type view in which the whole apartment is visible.
The effect of this view is dramatic because it gives the notion that Thorwald could potentially appear and you are able to see not only him, but Lisa as well. This viewpoint is used often in the film to demonstrate Jeff’s perspective on the neighborhood as well as the viewers watching the film. The scene continues as Thorwald returns to his apartment. Jeff notices that Thorwald is walking down the hallway as Lisa is near the door and neither character’s have a clue that the other one is on the opposite side of the door.
This again demonstrates parallel editing because the two characters are shown in a different location but in the same scene. The panoramic viewpoint was useful so not only for Jeff, but for the audience to realize the danger Lisa is in and his helpless because she is unaware. The suspense continues as Thorwald enters the home and discovers Lisa inside. He eventually begins to attack Lisa and you can hear faint sounds of Lisa trying to get away. Her voice gets louder and clearer and represents a classical film style of sound being used. As Lisa remains in the apartment, not all visual elements can be seen.
The windows give access to what is going on. This establishes a type of editing known as editing for contraction. The scene is viewed from a far perspective and the flow is preserved while the narrative of the scene is not all shown. As Lisa is exploring Thorwald’s home, Jeff and the maid are in his apartment commentating on her. The close up “Shot Reverse Shot” is noticed as Jeff begins to whisper in fear and the camera begins to zoom in. Hitchcock’s “Rear Window” is a great murder mystery, both technically and artistically. The story is woven together cleverly both visually and musically.
The short clip shows editing is important and can change the mood and effect that a scene can have. The single setting of one apartment courtyard is amazingly intense. A scene from a film contains many ways to analyze technically and emotionally. The ability to see technically how a scene works and the coloring is important which leads into emotions. The small details such as lighting change the mood and tone of a scene in which this film demonstrates. The characters have great chemistry together or apart. “Rear Window” serves as a classic film.