Thursday, 5 February 2015

Film Review - Rope (1948)

Fig. 1 Rope (1948) Movie Poster

Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (1948) is an incredibly tense story of two men, Phillip (Played by Farley Granger) and Brandon (Played by John Dall), who hide a horrible secret from their party guests. It's incredible use of one setting is expertly done, and is now trademark Hitchcock. The slow, yet gripping movement and dialogue of the characters will have you on the edge of your seat. Hitchcock uses very few shots in the film and so allows the story to take place as if it was a real event. Ken Hanke praises the use of shots by saying "Hitchcock's 'one take' classic gets better with age." - (Hanke, 2003)

Fig. 2 Phillip (Left) and Brandon (Right) drinking wine

Possibly the biggest argument that the film tackles, however, is the two main characters and their connection with each other. What is, probably, clear to most modern audiences is that there is a sexual relationship between Phillip and Brandon. As homosexuality wasn't as accepted in 1948 as it is now, Hitchcock doesn't reveal this relationship in any way. He uses subtle comments and actions to demonstrate it, but does it in such a way that is wasn't very clear in 1948. Fernando F. Croce goes as far at to say, in his review for Slant Magasine, that "the film is crammed with submerged gay intimations" - (Croce, 2006). It could therefore be argued that Hitchcock is demonstrating how everyone is equal, regardless of their sexual preference, and that is how it should be, as it wasn't noticed as much when it was first released. Our connection with these characters would remain the same regardless. This brilliant choice of characters was therefore a big step forward for homosexual equality in film. 

Fig. 3 Brandon talking to Rupert

Another wonderfully unique effect Hitchcock introduces is the background and the setting. We watch the film as if it were a play. Roger Ebert refers to the film's similarities to a play by saying "The play depended, for its effect, on the fact that it was one continuous series of actions." - (Ebert, 1984). We see no more than what we saw in the first minute, and this allows us to learn the environment in depth, which, as a result, makes every character's movement off the screen that much more tense. The city in the background is a still image, but Hitchcock uses lighting to show the day go by. However, as the film's running time is around 80 minutes long, it seems a little strange how it can go from the morning to the night within that length of time. Despite that, it has very little effect on the story and we are too gripped with the characters, it goes somewhat unnoticed whilst watching. 

Perhaps, the most tense scene in the film is when the maid, Mrs Wilson, is clearing books, candles and other props off the top of the chest. We know that the inside of the chest will catch Phillip and Brandon out, and so this scene is very dramatic, to say the least. Hitchcock uses the same shot throughout this 1 minute sequence and is both exciting and frightening to watch. We see Mrs Wilson move from room to room, moving objects around and occasionally speaking to other characters . Hitchcock makes us wait and the end result of this scene has a massive impact on us and the characters involved.

Fig. 4 Mrs Wilson clearing the top of the chest

Despite Hitchcock calling the film an“experiment that didn’t work out,” Rope is a major pioneer for many things. It's use of setting, response to homosexuality and, of course, Hitchcock's revolutionary camera techniques and shots that make it, sometimes, unbearable to watch, but make it so much more brilliant.

Illustration List:
Fig. 1 Rope (1948) Movie Poster - (Accessed 05/02/2015)

Fig. 2 Phillip (Left) and Brandon (Right) drinking wine - - (Accessed 05/02/2015)

Fig. 3 Brandon talking to Rupert - (Accessed 05/02/2015)

Fig. 4 Mrs Wilson clearing the top of the chest - - (Accessed 05/02/2015)

Croce, Fernando. F (2006) - Rope - Film Review - 1948 - - (Accessed 05/02/2015)

Ebert, Roger (1984) - Rope -  - (Accessed 05/02/2015)

Hanke, Ken (2003) - Rope (1948) - - (Accessed 05/02/2015)


  1. good review, Dan - interesting observations re. depiction of homosexuality, though it should be noted perhaps that as depictions of homosexuality, these two characters are classically stereotyped - the sadist and the masochist...

  2. Nice review Dan :)
    It might have been good to also discuss the technicality of how Hitchcock achieved that long continuous shot - ie, zooming in on the character's back while changing the reel, then zooming out again, to hide the join...