Rope (1948)
Alfred Hitchcock


RopeFollowing the idyllic establishment shot of a quiet little street in Manhattan, which sets up the film’s notion of commonplaceness of evil, Alfred Hitchcock’s wonderful Rope (1948) presents us with an image from a murder that gives away the identities of both the victim and the killers. What follows is not a de-dramatized whodunit, but a taut psychological examination of the gruesome act that transcends its immediate settings. One criticism of the film that I can’t agree with is that it is too theatrical. Surely, a filmmaker with such refined cinematic sensibility as Hitchcock can never be content with merely filming a play. In fact, one could say that Rope is a seminal film that clearly defines where theatre ends and where cinema begins. Hitchcock’s rigorous framing scheme elucidates perfectly how cinema can, indeed, be more restrictive than theatre and how the fact that there lies a whole world beyond the cinematic frame can be harnessed for maximum effect. Hitchcock’s manipulation of space and his direction of the actors keep highlighting his central themes and character relationships. The shots are extremely long and fluid, giving a real sense of “being there” (not in the way those horrible shaky cams do). And, of course, there is the profundity of the text itself. Arthur Laurents’ script (in whose formation Hitch surely must have had a hand, considering how thematically consistent Rope is with the director’s filmography), probes the darkest corners of the human soul, analyzing the fascist tendencies inherent in all of us, however removed it is from our consciousness.