I consider this film to be one of Hitchcock’s cleverest films. The way he directs this makes us voyeurs, just like Jimmy Stewart’s character is. We almost become characters in the film, it’s like we are there alongside Stewart watching from that window too.
I felt quite uncomfortable the first time I saw this one because it felt like I was being nosy and looking in on all these peoples lives. I felt like had become Stewart’s character in a way.
Rear Window tackles issues of obsession, curiosity, romance, murder and voyeurism. The film features glamourous clothes, black comedy, fascinating characters, plenty of suspense, and one of the most realistic film sets in American film history. The film also shows that sometimes being nosy and suspicious can be the right thing.
I like how we are not entirely sure whether to accept the suspicions of Jeff or not. Even though we see and hear what he does, we don’t know how much to be concerned about, or even at some points are not entirely clear about what we’ve witnessed.
Photographer L.B. ‘Jeff’ Jefferies (James Stewart)is wheelchair bound after he breaks his leg.Jeff lives in an apartment complex and starts looking out of his window at his neighbours simply because he needs something to do to pass the time. However what begins as a casual curiosity, soon develops into an obsession as he can’t stop looking at what’s going on in the neighbouring apartments.
Jeff’s glamourous girlfriend, Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly)loves him dearly, but the two are complete opposites in background, life and society. Lisa begins to get concerned about Jeff’s obsession with the neighbours and tries to get him to focus on her instead.
Soon Lisa gets drawn into his obsession too when the pair begin to suspect Lars Thorwald (a menacing Raymond Burr)of having murdered his wife. The pair begin their own investigation. They are helped in their investigations by Jeff’s nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter) and Jeff’s detective friend Doyle (Wendell Corey).
Hitchcock keeps us guessing as to whether Thorwald is innocent or guilty right up to the end. We begin to wonder at points in the film whether Jeff is correct in his suspicions or not.
I love the apartment complex set because it looks so real. How it’s set up really works for the story as Jeff’s window has a clear view of all of the others. All the apartments were also designed inside, with furniture etc added to the interior sets.
The one thing about this set up that always makes me laugh, is how everyone has their windows open with the lights on and nobody (apart from the newlyweds)ever has their curtains or blinds drawn. This seems to be a reccuring thing in American, Swedish and Danish films and series; here in the UK, once it’s evening, the curtains and blinds are shut, we’d never dream of having the lights on so everyone outside could see in.
I like how Jeff finally sees past Lisa’s glamour to see the woman beneath. They love each other, but have such different lives. He realises he loves her and sees that she is a resourceful and brave woman. Kelly is glamourous and beautiful(as ever)but shows there is more to her character than looks. Kelly shows us Lisa’s vulnerable side and her desperation for Jeff to fully accept her in his life.
Stewart portrays Jeff as a man set in his ways, but slowly realising there is room for Lisa in his life. He does such a good job of conveying Jeff’s growing fascination and obsession with looking out of the window.
Thelma Ritter provides comic support as the no nonsense Stella. She also thinks Jeff needs to stop watching, but then she and Lisa begin to think he may be right after all.
Raymond Burr is almost unrecognisable as the menacing Lars Thorwald. I love Burr when he plays good guys like Ironside, but he was superb when playing dubious characters and villains.
This is a thrilling film that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. It also makes you see just how easy it is to slip into obsession. Excellent performances throughout and skilled direction from Hitch make this a must see.
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