Bit of a change of pace. What’s going on here?
Classic Alfred Hitchcock suspense picture. James Stewart is laid up in his apartment and has nothing to do but observe his neighbours from his studio apartment, and gets a whole lot more than he bargained for whilst doing so.
Ahh, healthy voyeurism for all…
Well, what would you do if you were stuck in a wheelchair with a broken leg during the summer? Listen to the birds? Photographer L.B. Jeffries breaks his leg on location, and we find him restless, confined to his apartment and getting very bored. Thankfully for him, the view from his huge rear window allows him to observe the comings and goings of some of his neighbours. There’s a beautiful dancer, a newly wed couple, a lonely middle-aged woman and several couples. What starts out as mostly innocent surveilance start to go awry when Jeffries notices one of the husband’s of these couples cleaning a large knife, with his bed-ridden wife nowhere to be seen, and slowly, his nurse (Thelma Ritter), girlfriend (Grace Kelly) and an old friend in the Police (Wendell Corey) are all sucked into Jeffries determination to prove that something awful is afoot.
1950s + Hitchcock + James Stewart = awesome?
It might not be the most evocatively titled movie of all time, but it’s a classic for a reason. Hitchcock nailed the art of the suspense thriller during his career, and Rear Window is probably the best example of it you’ll find. Stewart spends almost the entire film sat in his wheelchair, yet he slowly drags those around him into the drama unfolding from outside of his studio apartment. What’s even more impressive is that the film manages to hold your attention despite its exceptionally limited setting; we only ever see the main room of Jeffries’ apartment, the courtyard it looks out on and the rooms of those he spends his time watching.
(Kelly and Stewart’s performances are in truly awesome territory for the entire film)
It’s a treat to watch Jeffries become more and more involved in what’s going on outside his window, almost to the detriment of everything around him. At first, his relationship with Lisa (Kelly, being exceptionally enchanting) seems to be on the verge of ending because of their differences, but sure enough, she gets as engrossed in the drama as he does. When the tension hits its highest point towards the film’s conclusion, it’s absorbing and genuinely involving. Yet, Jeffries’ focus doesn’t linger on the potential murder, taking in the beautiful dancer’s long line of suitors in the evening and the lonely lady’s attempts at finding love amongst the other residents’ activities. Keeping Jeffries’ focus wide was a masterstroke, and it’s great to be kept up to speed with all of these engaging characters even though you’ll rarely get to hear them talk.
A movie that could’ve been poor in the wrong hands that instead deserves its classic status, thanks to Hitchcock, a great turn by Stewart and amazing, slow-burning tension.