Thursday, 23 January 2014

Film Review - Rope (1948)

Fig.1 Rope

Rope (1948) is a crime thriller by world famous director Alfred Hitchcock, it is a story about two upper middle class men who murder another man who they believe is a lesser individual, especially the character of Brandon. The film doesn't waste time in showing the murder scenario, it is the first scene of the film, shortly after the murder is carried out Brandon's friend and sidekick in the murder, Phillip, starts to show some remorse and regret for what he just helped to do, thus leading to the story of the rest of the film. As film critic says "...the dead calm (and near glee) shown by Brandon is more chilling than the murder itself. Phillip, on the other hand, is as uncomfortable as the audience." (J.C. Macek, S.D).

Although Rope doesn't come to mind when Hitchcock is mentioned there is a real feel for suspense in this film as the entire film plays out in one set, and that is the floor/apartment where Brandon holds a "supposed" farewell party for Phillip. Throughout the entire time in the film the audience is aware that both Brandon and Phillip have stuck David in the trunk, that Brandon disguised and used as a serving table, creating the suspense as to whether or not someone is going to search the trunk. 

Fig.2 Alfred Hitchcock, Rope

Brandon decided to make the "coffin"of David as the serving table because he sees the entire charade as an art, he even goes to put candles on top of the trunk, like a decorative display, which Phillip resents. However one of the main attractions of this film to film fanatics, is the use of cameras and suspense. Countless times in the film the audience will see a camera go into the back of a character, which starts another sequence. This is particularly interesting because in contemporary times you don't often see ambitious camera angles like that, but this is done because this film was filmed with very little or no editing, it was filmed in a long continuos run. It can also be argued that it makes the film more engaging, adding to the suspense as it becomes a close shot, as they are zoomed into the character's back. Film critic, Roger Ebert supports this idea saying "In an ordinary movie, closer shots indicate more intensity, longer shots are more objective. Camera movement helps establish mood. Closeups punch home dramatic moments." (Ebert, 1984). 

Fig.3 Rope

One notable scene in the film, with a strong use of direction for the cameras, is during the end of the party Brandon's maid is cleaning up the trunk, the trunk with the dead body inside, although the maid doesn't know about the murder, the audience does. This scene features a camera staying still, playing it's focus on the trunk, solely, as the maid walks in and out of the room slowly cleaning up the candles and the plates. This sense of unknowing for the audiences as to whether or not she is going to open the trunk to put the books away, creates a huge amount of suspense, with such a simple and effective technique with the camera. There is also even further amount of suspense that the audience is subjected to, when Rupert and the maid are talking and they are about to open the trunk for the books before Brandon notices and stops them, leaving Rupert highly suspicious.

Fig.5 Rupert & the Chest

There is also a strong use of colour near the end of the Rope, when Rupert makes up a story that he left something at the party in order to go back and try and find out what both Brandon and Phillip are hiding. As Rupert gets closer to discovering the murder committed by both Brandon and Phillip, the audience sees green and red neon lights in the background, which have not been lit up until this point in the film. It can be said that this has been used in the film to specifically represent the moods and emotions of the characters of Brandon and Phillip. Throughout the entire film from start to end, Phillip is very uneasy, defensive and on the edge, even in the picture below (see Fig.6) the character of Phillip looks very worried. The green is likely to represent Phillip's feelings of guilt and is only seen at this point because he is sure he's going to get found out this time round so the light suddenly appears and intensifies the scene, reflecting this shockwave of emotions. Whereas similarly throughout the film Brandon has been very proud of his crime, one of the main reasons he hosted this party was so he could bring up the topic of the righteousness of murder with Rupert starting the debate, as Brandon admitted himself in the film, it is almost as if Brandon wants to be discovered. Therefore the red can be a symbol of the character of Brandon, and how much of a dangerous individual he is.

Fig.6 Green Light

In conclusion Rope uses a great used of directing considering there was very little if any editing done, the minimalist approach and experiment of Alfred Hitchcock succeeds in creating suspense without the mainstrea use of slowly moving tracking characters behind a possible victim. Though there isn't much appreciation for the film compared to Hitchcock's other films, it could be argued that this is because of the homosexual themes in it. Rope was based off a play where the two murderers were homosexual men, and around the time this film was released it was very controversial and largely unaccepted to be a homosexual, so it could be said that it is because of this it didn't get as good of a reception as Hitchock's other films, not the actual film making. Film reviewer Ollie England mentioned the homosexual themes, "The narrative is gripping enough without consideration of the sexual politics of the film, yet there are some obvious clues as to the together and holiday together; they finish each other's lines and thoughts; they know all about each other's favourite drinks, taste in music and constantly review each other's feelings...They have a maid that seems to treat them as a pair of divas...although Brandon has had a relation with a female friend before - it seems to have ended badly." (England, 2013).


Ebert, R [Online] At: (Accessed on 18.01.14)

England, O [Online] At: (Accessed on 18.01.14)

Macek, J.C [Online] At: (Accessed on 18.01.14)

List of Illustrations:

Fig.1 Rope [Poster Art] At: (Accessed on 18.01.14)

Fig.2 Alfred Hitchcock, Rope [Film Still] At: (Accessed on 18.01.14)

Fig.5 Rupert & the Chest [Film Still] At:  (Accessed on 18.01.14)

Fig.6 Green Light [Film Still] At: (Accessed on 18.01.14)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rhianna,

    Generally, an interesting have touched on some relevant topics in relation to the film-making process, and the use of the editing (or lack of). It might have also been worth discussing the use of sound to create suspense...the playing of the piano, which becomes discordant when Phillip is put under pressure, and the ticking of the metronome, for example.
    This part of your first sentence, doesn't really make sense...

    '... it is a story about two upper middle class men who murder another man who they believe is a lesser individual, especially the character of Brandon.'

    It's the last bit, about the character of Brandon, that is somehow out of place.

    Try and label your images according to what is actually in the image - you have done this for the final 2, but the captions under 2 and 3 don't really fit. In figure 2 for example, you would expect to see a picture of Hitchcock himself, according to your caption :)