10 Movies in 10 Days / Rear Window (1954)
I am a pretty avid fan of most things Hitchcock. He had a run of films from 1954 to 1964 that is unparalleled in quality. This span of 10 years saw the release of Dial M for Murder, To Catch a Thief, Vertigo, North By Northwest, Psycho, The Birds, and Marnie. It also saw the release of the movie this article is about...my favorite of all Hitchcock films, Rear Window. It was released to much commercial and critical success, of course a film starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly was sure to be a box office smash. But for me the true star of the film is the story and how Hitchcock masterfully pulls you into it.
Rear Window revolves around a man named L.B. Jefferies (Stewart), a professional adventure photographer, who is recovering from a broken leg in his Greenwich Village apartment. Unable to get out, and suffering from a bit of depression, he takes to watching the goings on of his neighbors with a pair of high powered binoculars. His girlfriend Lisa (Kelly) comes for frequent visits, bringing him food, and does her best to cheer him up, but he keeps finding himself pulled to the binoculars to see what's going on through the window. As he suspects that something nefarious has occurred in the apartment across the courtyard, Jefferies and Lisa get sucked into a series of events that has to be seen to be believed.
You quickly begin to understand that voyeurism is the theme of Rear Window. Where Hitchcock wins in this is how he pulls the viewer into being a voyeur along with Jefferies. As the movie begins his glimpses into the lives of his neighbors seems innocent enough, and you as the viewer don't have much of a problem with it either. Then his nosiness begins to be more intrusive...he starts to become more involved...especially as he suspects that a violent crime has been committed. This is when Hitchcock has you. Just like Jefferies you are wondering what is going on in the apartment across the way. You're nervous, you're intrigued, and you're also uneasy about how things should continue...or even if they SHOULD continue. As the film continues, balanced on a razor's edge of tension, the climax of the film leaves you breathless, and honestly filled with mixed emotions. Did the voyeurism serve as a means to an end. Did it vindicate the invasions of privacy? You're left to decide.
By using a giant indoor studio to recreate a Greenwich Village apartment complex, Hitchcock created the perfect claustrophobic world for the movie to exist in. Like Jefferies, you the viewer felt trapped in place with only the window to provide your entertainment. The set piece is very impressive, even today, in the level of detail put into what you're seeing. In a world today where a CGI backdrop would create a visual scene, Hitchcock's living and breathing set piece has a magical, albeit sinister, appeal to it. It's a lost art, sets like these, and it adds a great deal of depth despite how small it is.
Finally, I love how the film documents that even back in 1954 people were lurking and spying on other people's lives. For all the talk about lack of privacy and Facebook stalking being the norm today, Hitchcock's study on voyeurism feels ever so relevant when viewed in the here and now. It also shows that people have a curious streak, and he places part of the blame of the events in the film on your shoulders for not minding your own business. He was a master of his craft, and Rear Window is a shining example of what he was able to do with that genius.