Friday, 22 January 2016

Cutting Edges: Film Review: Rope

Figure 1: Film Poster
Rope is a 1948 American psychological crime thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Based on a play of the same name, the film tells the story of two friends, Brandon and Phillip, who strangle a former classmate, David, simply to commit the 'perfect murder'. They then hid David's body within a chest which they host a dinner party minutes later after the murder. The two are finally caught as their former professor notices something is wrong.

Figure 2

Throughout the film there is one aspect which Alfred Hitchcock uses effectively, which is the use of the camera. The entire film appears as though it was taken in all one take, but the cuts within the film is when the camera moves into a character's back, however shown by the way the camera moves around the characters shows that much of the film was taken in ten to twenty minutes takes. The free movement of the camera creates the effect that the film itself is a play, similar to the original format of the film's basis. Fernando F. Croce states that Hitchcock is not just filming a play performance, but that this use of very long takes adds a more realistic tension between the characters, the scene, and the actors themselves, as they cannot rely upon a cut and editing in case they get the slightest detail wrong, in "Far from just “recording a play,” the suffocating long takes enforce ethical contemplation by refusing the relief of a cut." (F. Croce, 2006)  

Figure 3
The camera not only creates the effect that the film is a performance, but the camera seems to appear to be a character all on its own. The camera drifts around the characters within the film, recreating how a character would look at each person speaking. As well as looking at characters and what they're focusing on, such as when Phillip looks at the rope hanging out of the chest, but also focuses on points when characters are talking, recreating the effect of what the audience would be looking at during a performance, as well as the camera as a character looking at, for example when the professor is explaining how the two killed David, the camera pans and moves to focus on points which the professor is talking about, such as the closet and the chair, slowing panning to the rest on the chest.

Hitchcock uses the combination of using the real-time take and camera as a character to create a feeling of claustrophobia, explained by Pamela Hutchinson, in "This clunkiness can be part of the film's claustrophobic strength though: the coffin-chest is rarely out of shot, and the camera follows the actors around every square inch of the confined set. They're trapped, and so is the audience." (Hutchinson, 2012), she explains that the characters and actors are not only trapped within the set, and the way the camera moves all around them, trapping them in certain rooms and corners at certain points, which adds a tension again to the actors, putting more pressure upon them, as though the camera has become a character and is trapping the characters, which could cause them to do something unpredictable, such as opening the chest.

Figure 4
Hitchcock uses the camera to create tension within several scenes throughout the film. As the audience already gain the knowledge of the murder, who committed it, and where the body is hidden, the remaining aspect left unknown to the audience is the when or how they'll get caught. This allows Hitchcock to create tension for the audience, specifically by using the camera, for example, as David's body is hidden in the chest, the camera falls and rests upon the chest, focusing on the maid clearing the chest, while the chattering guests ramble on in the background, which the audience become nearly deaf to as they watch the maid piece by piece take away the dinner set, building the tension up until the very moment when she's just about to open the lid entirely and up until Brandon interferes.

Roger Ebert explains that an important for there to be little cuts by clever use of the camera, such as fading into the back of a character and then the next cut fades out of the back as though only a moment has passed, is so that the suspense and tension isn't lost, "Once the characters have entered the room, there can’t be any jumps in time, or the suspense will be lost. The audience must know that the body is always right there in the trunk." (Ebert, 1984) by keeping the entire film appearing as though it was filmed in one take, then the suspense of discovery is never interrupted.

In conclusion, the use of the camera is a very important aspect in creating different effects throughout the film, such as recreating the idea that the entire film is one performance, similar to the stories original format, a play, as well as creating tension at certain points in the film. Not only does the camera create tension within the film, but acts itself as a character which allows the audience to focus on points and aspects such as the closet and the chair while the characters make a voice over, revealing the how the murder took place.

Illustration List
Figure 1: Film Poster (1948) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Figure 2: Film still (1948) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Figure 3: Film still (1948) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Figure 4: Film still (1948) Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.


F. Croce, Fernando, 2006, (online)

Hutchinson, Pamela, 2012, (online)

Ebert, R. 1984, (online)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Danielle,

    Interesting review, especially the discussion around the camera as a character in its own right :)

    Don't forget to italicise your quotes, and also the film name. You should also check the referencing guide to make sure that your bibliography is formatted correctly (speaking of formatting - you have a tiny mini-font in your last reference!)
    See here for referencing info -