Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948): An obscure gem

I am into Hitchcock movies nowadays. Probably late in exploring them, but classics are never too old to watch, are they? I have seen only four till now, starting with the most obvious choice Psycho, the ending of which left my jaw hanging (quite obvious as well), and then I went on to The Birds, Vertigo and Rope. I have been asking people for recommendations, and while many took Dial M for Murder, Rebecca, North by Northwest, Rear Window and such other well-known names, no one suggested Rope to me. So what made me pick this up as the fourth Hitchcock movie to watch, among fifty others?

I have always been fond of one-location movies – those that take place in a single setting throughout, and all you have to do is pay intense attention to the words and actions of the characters, as they lead you through some dramatic turn of events. Things that happen in a span of less than two hours, often in a single room. Probably the first movie of this type that I watched was Coherence, a horror sci-fi, and then another sci-fi called The Man from Earth, followed by another classic 12 Angry Men, one of the best movies I have ever seen. So coming back to Rope, I may not yet be in a position to compare among Hitchcock movies since I have a long way to go, but I was surprised to find out on the Internet that Rope isn’t widely considered as one of his best. I might be biased because of my affinity towards neo-noir thrillers and one-location movies, but I just want to convince you that if you must watch a good movie tonight and you have less time to spare, go for this eighty minutes wonder.

So it starts with a murder – two friends Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger) strangle another friend David (Dick Hogan) in their apartment with a simple household rope, shortly before throwing a party with his family and fiancee as guests. Reason? They were experimenting with the Nietzschian philosophy of having the privilege to murder an ‘inferior’ being, themselves being self-proclaimed intellectually ‘superior’ humans. As bizarre as this sounds, they proceed to hide the body in a chest, which they utilise as a table and serve dinner on, to their guests. While Brandon is casual and confident, Phillip is nervous and likely to give away at the slightest provocation. If you are feeling weird already, the movie goes on to become less cringeworthy as the atmosphere seems pretty normal with the arrival of the guests. But from time to time, there are references to death and even the topic of privileged murder comes up, and the dark humour gets you somehow. But even if you feel uncomfortable, it will keep you engaged till the last. The fact that you know in the very beginning that a crime has been committed and that the entire scene is progressing towards a revelation, makes you wait for the inevitable and find out how it exactly happens. And you know the revelation is even more worth the wait as their university tutor, Rupert Cadell (James Stewart), enters the scene.

As is understandable, there aren’t many occurrences in the story. There’s nothing much to ponder over or remember. One only needs to observe – the body language, the gaze, the words, the surroundings, and how every single moment leads to the discovery of the crime. Then you would want to know the reactions once this happens. Will Rupert, who believes in the same philosophy, support them or condemn their heinous act? And of course, you would want to know how the rope plays an important part.

I am interested in film making to some extent, with the knowledge of a layman. And watching Rope taught me thing or two about editing. So it happens in a single setting, and it is particularly known to be a no-cut movie, that is, it was shot in one go. Amazing, right? Only that there are ten hidden cuts right there under your nose, and you have missed it. Hitchcock probably plays with our observational skills, and arranges them alternatively as ‘hard cuts’ and ‘dissolve’. I did notice the dissolves, but frankly speaking, not a single hard cut.

You can watch them here, but I warn you about spoilers:

 

So watch Rope if:

  1. You love Hitchcock. Come on, who doesn’t?
  2. You love thrillers and mystery flicks.
  3. You have less than two hours for a movie.
  4. You appreciate good filmmaking.
  5. You want a good evening alone or with a friend, which will guarantee a deep conversation afterwards.

Enough reasons? Then grab a popcorn and get going.

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5 thoughts on “Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948): An obscure gem

  1. As the old saying goes…better late than never. You’ve set the bar high with your first four Hitchcock movies as well. I hope you continue to enjoy his films and thank you for inspiring me to go out and check out Rope!

    Like

  2. Terrific. Just a week or so ago, I learned from my blogging friend JDB (an aesthetic medico whose blog is called Augenblick) that a piano piece I’d writing on was used in ‘Rope’. Now that’s synchronicity.

    Suppose I better check out the film, eh?

    Here’s the link (which I’m more than happy for you to delete as we haven’t been introduced, but do check our JDB’s blog – she’s great).
    https://lonelykeyboards.wordpress.com/2017/08/14/spiderfingers/

    Liked by 1 person

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