I’ll be doing mostly a literary/film analysis of Rear Window that I hope you find interesting. I’ve been told it’s a classic but I found it to be way ahead of it’s time and fundamentally different in the way the film sets itself to be. Sit back, relax and I hope you enjoy it 🙂
I’ve been meaning to watch Rear Window for the longest time and now that I finally have, I can honestly say it’s not just good but also great. Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller is fundamentally edge-of-your-seat thrilling and suspenseful but becomes so much more at every step of the way. With each furtive glance and peek from our resident amateur sleuth, Jeff, we’re vicariously snooping into the lives of his neighbours. The enclosed nature of Jeff’s social habitus is stifling and somewhat chilling…behind the closed doors and drawn curtain of every household is a narrative teasing our curiosities. Rear Window takes us on a ride that feels uneasy because we can’t help ourselves (like Jeff) but look. The brilliance in Rear Window is making us unwittingly and helplessly complicit in voyeurism as we enmesh the public and the private space. But in a society where we’re all stalkers in some way or another, we often times indulge more than care. But if, like Jeff,his beautiful socialite girlfriend Lisa and his insurance nurse Stella who would risk mixing their own lives into the precariously hostile and uncertain of the public space in the pursuit of something greater, then Rear Window provides equal ambiguity and redemption that poignantly characterizes our modern social habitus till this day.
There was a point in the movie’s climax where for a moment I thought the film would end in a different way. As a lover of film noir, Rear Window is unmistakably film noir. There are references (even self-reflences when the Jeff and Lisa talk) and obvious thematic devices that give the film that ‘noir’ feel. But instead of ending it in a cynical fashion, Rear Window offers redemption. The cynicism is littered throughout but by the end, the pursuit of truth pays off in a way that our protagonists triumph at very little personal cost. The impact, or that striking message Hitchcock wants to leave reverberating inside you doesn’t come in the form of tragedy or cynicism but in the final few shots of restored normalcy within the community. Now, having seen the film, we view these characters who continue to their own pretty peaceful lives separate from each other as a facade. It is a disquieting shot from Hitchcock of tranquil meant to suggest the exact opposite. One crime might have been solved, but let’s be honest, as one character who’s precious little dog just got strangled said, “You don’t know the meaning of the word ‘neighbors’! Neighbors like each other, speak to each other, care if anybody lives or dies! But none of you do!”
Hitchcock’s film is thus a modern kind of noir, or at least a modern kind of film and way ahead of its time. The ‘catharsis’ and ‘impact’ lies not in the actual climax, plot or resolution but in the effect it leaves it’s viewers with. As an aside to literature, ‘Greek Tragedy’ is something innate; A catharsis that mainly applies to the protagonist himself/herself. There’s art in creating something non-contrived for the tragic resolution of a protagonist that enriches the meaning and significance of his/her purpose and struggle. ‘Christian Tragedy’, on the other hand, is catharsis felt by the audience. It’s something more modern (arguably) but not any more important. Rear Window, though not really that tragic, embodies the style of leaving catharsis for it’s viewers. It’s a beautifully framed film with a beautifully subtle hint of uneasiness that disturbs the harmony. Hitchcock nails that in a way that feels so natural. And the brilliance is that, before, we were uneasy about our (and the character’s) curiosity and voyeurism…and by the end, we’re troubled by the prospect of communities languishing once more into our own safe places of seclusion.
Rating: 10/10 A ‘classic’ film that is also way ahead of it’s time.
The beautiful and chilling poster is from Laurent Durieux.