Film Flick: Rear Window

Friday, March 14, 2014

Rear Window is not only the name of the film, but it's location too.  Conceived  as the answer to a self-imposed challenge of shooting an entire movie on one set, Rear Window is Hitchcock- and James Stewart and Grace Kelly- and his (their!) best. 
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When a daredevil of a photographer (Stewart) gets his legs broken during a shoot, the dull life of an invilad seems impossible to bear, especially as he is pressured to consider asking  his ultra-glamourous girlfriend, Lisa (Grace Kelly), to marry him . To escape both the pressure and boredom, he watches in growing fascination the lives of those around him as their dramas are pieced together from what can be seen from their apartment windows. In many ways, the neighbor's lives seem to book end photographer Jeff's own issues about marriage and love. The voyeurism takes on a sudden sense of urgency though, when Lisa and Jeff notice one of the neighbor's has gone missing. Has so much free time resulted in a sense of paranoia, or is foul play in the works?  

As Roger Eberts puts it, "...the experience is not so much like watching a movie, as like ... well, like spying on your neighbors." This sensation is helped by the fact that not only is the film all shot on one set, but that, with very few exceptions, it is shot from one point of view- that of Jeff's window. In order to build a sense of authenticity an entire multi-story apartment building was constructed on a sound stage. The first floor was removed, and the set put in the basement so everything would fit within. In fact, eight of the apartments were fully furnished,  including electricity and running water; when in between takes, one of the actors relaxed and basically lived in the apartment that was her character's! It wasn't just the camera restricted to the view from the rear window through. Director Hitchcock did his work from there; the neighbors all wore flesh colored earpieces from which to receive direction. 
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It was not only the technical qualities that made this film great. Stewart and Kelly- both favorites of Hitchcock- shine here. Interestingly, Kelly's part of the fashion-model girlfriend was not in the short story that inspired the film. Screenplay writers were instructed to spend time with the actress before writing, to get a sense of the character. "Lisa" is therefore thought to reflect many of the actress' own traits, though the playwright John Hayes also partly based the character on his wife, a real-life former model. It works though, and Kelly's impossibly bewitching beauty is never better displayed than in a Hitchcock film, especially when clothed by Edith Head, as here. The tension between the two leads is palpable, but one can also believe they love one another. Hitchcock's works can sometimes feel emotionally cold, but this film captures both suspense and emotion beautifully. Truly you won't believe what you can see with the Rear Window


  1. I love this film! I haven't watched any Hitchcock in awhile, thanks for reminding me of how great these movies are!

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  2. I've always heard references to this film but never actually knew what it was- it sounds brilliant! I can't believe they actually constructed a whole apartment complex on stage- with running water! Now that's impressive. I've never watched any of Hitchcock's movies, but now I'm definitely curious :)

    xo Marlen
    Messages on a Napkin

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  3. I love this movie but it's been so long since I've seen it. You've inspired me to look it up again. I loved the rear window perspective. I was teaching last year and I had a bunch of students who all brought in essays about Hitchcock's Rear Window, such a joy to read.

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  4. Such a good movie! I need to watch this again :)

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  5. nice blog and great post! I think I will be here more often! :)

    Don't forget to stop by and say hello!

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  6. I never get tired of watching this film. The story is great, the characters, well, have character, and the whole imagery is just beautiful. Definitely one of my favourites!

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