Why did I watch it?
I started 2013 having seen no Hitchcock films, Rear Window was number three and was one I was familiar with having seen both Disturbia and the references to it in The Simpsons.
What's it all about?
Remember The Simpsons episode where Bart breaks his leg and spends all his time cooped up alone, looking out of his window, until he becomes insistent he saw Ned Flanders murder his wife? That plot is a fully lifted tribute to Rear Window. Professional photographer James Stewart is wheelchair bound with a broken leg and passes his time casually watching out across the yard where he can see into the windows of all his neighbours. Things turn sinister when he notices the wife of one neighbour is missing and becomes certain the husband is guilty of murder. Grace Kelly stars as his girlfriend, at first uncomfortable with his 'peeping tom' habits.
Should you watch it?
In one word, absolutely. With a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Rear Window is often listed amongst Hitchcock's best films and the praise is just. Although I had seen the story played out in modern adaptations, Hitchcock's original felt fresh and superior. I shouldn't even be comparing Rear Window to Disturbia, despite enjoying that film, but by being immobile compared to just under house arrest, Stewart is all the more helpless later on in the film in comparison with Shia LaBeouf, resulting in far greater tension.
Straight from the opening credits, I felt that the set developed for the film was perfect, almost claustrophobic, allowing the camera to flow freely from window to window from Jeff's (Stewart) viewpoint as he keeps up on the lives of their occupants.
Voyeurism is an addictive habit and one that everyone is guilty of to some degree. Jeff's visitors frown upon his behaviour initially but after becoming persuaded by the serious possibilities of what Jeff claims to have witnessed, they become equally obsessed. There is something about spying on someone who believes they are in a private environment that appeals to the seedy side of human nature and Hitchcock succeeds in reeling the audience in as they become voyeurs too through Jeff's eyes.
By the time Jeff and his budding detectives have put themselves in harms way, Hitchcock has taken the slow burning tension through the roof to great effect.
|The view from Jeff's rear window|