Hitchcock's Rear Window: The Well-Made Film

Hitchcock's Rear Window: The Well-Made Film

Hitchcock's Rear Window: The Well-Made Film

Hitchcock's Rear Window: The Well-Made Film


In the process of providing the most extensive analysis of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window to date, John Fawell also dismantles many myths and cliches about Hitchcock, particularly in regard to his attitude toward women.

Although Rear Window masquerades quite successfully as a piece of light entertainment, Fawell demonstrates just how complex the film really is. It is a film in which Hitchcock, the consummate virtuoso, was in full command of his technique. One of Hitchcock's favorite films, Rear Window offered the ideal venue for the great director to fully use the tricks and ideas he acquired over his previous three decades of filmmaking. Yet technique alone did not make this classic film great; one of Hitchcock's most personal films, Rear Window is characterized by great depth of feeling.

Though Hitchcock is often labeled a misanthrope and misogynist, Fawell finds evidence in Rear Window of a sympathy for the loneliness that leads to voyeurism and crime, as well as an empathy for the film's women. Fawell emphasizes a more feeling, humane spirit than either Hitchcock's critics have granted him or Hitchcock himself admitted to, and does so in a manner of interest to film scholars and general readers alike.


Rear Window is Hitchcock's most unified film. Like Rope and Lifeboat, Rear Window limits itself to a single set. But it extends the experimentation of these films further because not only does Rear Window limit itself to one set but, for a large part of the film, to a single perspective, that of the protagonist, L. B. Jefferies, the photographer, played by Jimmy Stewart. Though the entire film is not told through Jefferies' point of view there is no other Hitchcock film in which we log so much time from a single perspective. Not only does Hitchcock limit himself to a single set, and for much of the time to a single perspective, but also that single perspective is fixed in one spot. Hitchcock hit upon the idea of having L. B. Jefferies wheelchair-bound, therefore restricting our primary point of view even further. Rear Window is Hitchcock's most claustrophobic film, set in one place, from one principal point of view, and from one principal fixed position. This film represents his most radical experiment in operating within self-imposed restrictions, in making something cinematic out of an almost stage-like world.

Hitchcock dedicated a large portion of his interviews to explaining the fruitfulness of establishing constraints on a film, both in the film's set and its camera perspective. He faults films that take plays, for example, and “open them up, ” setting them in woods and valleys, the real world to which the stage has no access. Hitchcock felt that such an approach dissipated the dramatic unity and integrity of the play. Cinema was not, he felt, a question of fields and trees. For Hitchcock, cinema is montage, pieces of film dramatically and . . .

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