Sunday, 18 January 2015

Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (1948) Film Review

 Fig. 1. Rope poster.

Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) is a film that reveals everything to you and then forces you to watch and wait as the suspense becomes unmanageable. Rope Is an adaptation of Patrick Hamilton’s play, Rope’s End, in which two young men commit what seems to be the perfect murder and then throw a party to celebrate, the guests are unaware of what had happened earlier in the day and confused as to why the deceased hasn’t shown up to the party.

 Fig. 2. Murder still.

Hitchcock described this film as more of an experiment; he wanted it to be a cinematic equivalent to the play, which takes place in the actual length of time of the story. Although hugely experimental Rope is a very impactful film, that appears to be one continuous shot, with no cuts. In actual fact they would have had to have cuts around every 10 minutes as that was all the film reels could record for. As Keyes describes in his review, ‘There is a great stroke of craftsmanship at work throughout the film. Shot in ten long takes, the movie creates an elaborate illusion that there is no cutaway or break from the action, as if to indicate a quiet observer is present in the room for the whole duration of the story instead of a mere movie camera (actual breaks do occur, though, most of them involving zooms into shadows at the end of one take and then panning back out at the beginning of another).’ (Keyes, 2014). Keyes suggests that the effect that the camera creates gives an illusion to the audience of being a quiet observer that is present in the room, much like a fly on the wall; it is possible that this also creates an immersive experience that mimics the effects of the stage performance.

 Fig. 3. Chest still.

Hitchcock, the master of suspense, demonstrates his technique’s impact in Rope; from the very beginning he gives the viewer all of the information on who has been murdered, who committed the crime and where they stashed the body. He then makes you wait; teasing at the idea they will get caught, showing the weaknesses in the duo, Philip appears to be crumbling from the inside out, while Brandon is thrilled and wants to proceed to see how much further they can push the boundaries. An incredible scene occurs in which the maid starts to slowly take everything off of the chest that the body is hidden in, Hitchcock makes you watch, cringing slightly at the thought of her opening the chest to find the body. As Canby mentions in his review, ‘One high point: While the guests are discussing something of no great moment just off- screen, the camera, catlike, stares at the chest as the maid gets ready to put some books back into it, unaware, of course, that the chest is already fully occupied.’ (Canby, 2000). Canby’s comment is a reinforcement of Hitchcock’s great choice of camera shots to build suspense, by having the rest of the party members just of screen, discussing things in the moment all unaware of what could potentially happen. This is what makes the suspense even greater and such a joy to watch, moments like this are exactly what the edge of your seat was made for.

Rope is a film that deals with a theory of a superior man that can decide to kill of his inferiors; Superman is a term that is given to this theory that is used by Friedrich Nietzsche, As Britannica mention in what they wrote about the theory, ‘This superior man would not be a product of long evolution; rather, he would emerge when any man with superior potential completely masters himself and strikes off conventional Christian “herd morality” to create his own values, which are completely rooted in life on this earth.’ (Britannica, 2014). The film uses this theory in a brutal sense, as Brandon believes himself and Philip are superior humans, thus allowing them to kill off their friend David who they deem to be weaker. It’s a sense of killing for the pleasure of killing and not for a motive as such. Nearer the end of the film Rupert, the character who was their former teacher and who potentially implanted the idea upon Brandon, admits that his theories on the superman theory where incorrect and he was disgusted to see the action of his theory.

Overall this film is a joy to watch and it will leave you on the edge of your seat. With suspense building from the very start it is definitely a must see for any film lover, the continuous shot makes the film somewhat more immersive as you begin to feel like a fly on the wall, watching as the perfect crime falls apart.

Illustration List:
Hitchcock, A. (1948). Figure 1. Rope poster. (Accessed on 18/01/2015)
Hitchcock, A. (1948). Figure 2. Murder still. (Accessed on 18/01/2015)

Britannica. (2014). (Accessed on 18/01/2015)
Canby, V. (2000). (Accessed on 18/01/2015)
Keyes, D. (2014). (Accessed on 18/01/2015)


  1. *Hitchcock described this film as move of an experiment* ? 'more of an experiment' ?

    meanwhile... nice review, Charlie :)

    1. Ah that typo is embarrassing, I will sort it.

  2. Well thought through Charlie :)