Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Rope Review



Whose role is it to decide on inferiority and superiority? Everyone creates a sphere of influence around them, choosing the different types they need to enhance their social status. Most think that their sphere is unique so as to believe all revolve around them. The quality of the people present around also influences the quality of the reflection one gives to society. How easy is it to consider yourself superior when around characters whom are not familiar in your way of seeing the world. Easy it becomes to advocate your own intelligence and superiority when others are not capable of displaying the same level of education and experience. Yet a unique sphere is only one in the myriad of spheres present in society. One must always challenge himself, throwing his intellect headlong into others and the result being always more intricate. The two primary characters in the film Rope, directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1948, fail to grasp that concept.

The Three Important Actors
Set in upper class New York, the story takes a very direct direction concerning the set design. At the very beginning of the film we are shown the apartment where all will be played. Though we do not know the exact amount of time we as viewers will spend in this room, the constant suspense and balanced use of camera and light play eases the whole experience. The two characters are what you could call Aesthetes. This 19th century movement, characterized by Oscar Wilde saw emotions and aesthetics as more important that moral and society values. They see murder as a thrilling adventure, even when David, the victim, is a close friend and former school mate. They want to prove their dominating intellect by committing the perfect crime. They bring up a whole theory of murder without motif, and a sordid view of inferiority. They consider themselves as superior beings thanks to their higher than average intellect. After considerable planning and shifting around the set, they are ready to introduce the first character, the maid, Mrs. Wilson. She enters and is surprised by all the shifting that occurred and is astonished as to why they decided to put the food on the chest. She serves as a down to earth “inferior” that still plays a major role in bringing down the masterpiece of the two “superiors”. They decide on who to invite based on the intellectual level of each and their relationship to the victim.

We find the father and aunt of the victim, his fiancé and her ex-lover. Added to that is Rupert, who acts as a highly intellectual. He also acts as a critic for the perfect crime or at least he should have. In the end he serves as a reminder of the strong complex of inferiority present in the two protagonists. The amount Intelligence is showed through the inverse amount of bragging one does. The constant affirmation of their superiority decreases their reliability, and Rupert serves as the object of comparison.

The infamous chest/table
The acting is excellent, and as Jason Pitt from Crucial-Fim.com says, “Everyone involved, from an acting standpoint, handle themselves quite well- The two friends responsible for the murder, John Dall as Brandon, the cockier of the two, and Farley Granger as Phillip, who loses composure as the film progresses, as he becomes more paranoid about being caught. The star however, is obviously James Stewart. His Rupert Cadell is perfectly restrained throughout the film, without losing an ounce of the charm you'd expect from him.” (Pitt:?)

The atmosphere created by the almost claustrophobic feel of the room, is a nice metaphor of the tense situation the actors find themselves in. Vincent Canby, from the New York Times implies this when he says that “the film is so chilly you could ice champagne in it or place it around a silver serving dish of fresh caviar.” (Canby: 1984)

The set of Rope, with Hitchcock in the middle.
Hitchcock wanted to demonstrate how a theatre piece could be transcribed to cinema while keeping the essence of theatre present. His use of little to no editing helps to create this. The massive cameras of the time, almost bigger than a man, required constant shifting of the props, which led the actors to fear sitting down, as they weren’t sure whether a seat would be present or not. Canby explains this, sying that “Hitchcock was interested in seeing whether he could find a cinematic equivalent to the play, which takes place in the actual length of time of the story. To do this, he decided to shoot it in what would appear to be one long, continuous "take," without cutaways or any other breaks in the action, though in fact there would have to be a disguised break every 10 minutes, which was as much film as the camera could contain.”(Canby: 1984). For the transitions, the camera would zoom in onto the back of characters, or on the back of the chest, in a dramatic zoom in of Rupert opening the chest and discovering the insides.

Rope is a masterpiece, a stunning play-like film clearly depicted by wonderful actors. The suspense is clear, and its moralistic views on Nietzsche’s work can be taken with a pinch of salt. Yet what really comes out in the end is that through their high intellect, the two protagonists demonstrate that intelligence is not the required aspect to be superior. Modesty is surely the first step.

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2 comments:

tutorphil said...

GREAT, Paul - genuinely. Loved the philosophical opener, the contextualisation of Brandon and Phillip as 'Wildeian' characters ('cruel queens'!), and the obvious time and effort spent on crafting a properly credible review. You just need to include the date etc. when you accessed the images as part of the illustration list info. Also, put your quotes into italics to further distinguish them. I look forward to your critique of La Jetee.

Paul Lemarquis said...

Thanks!