Thursday, September 25, 2008

"Nothing has caused the human race so much trouble as intelligence." HITCHCOCK MARATHON

Rear Window-1954-Alfred Hitchcock


Rear Window is one of Hitchcock’s most interesting films. It does something that Hitchcock did often, it limits the film to a confined space that we are trapped in for the entirety, but it does so in a different way than films such as Rope, or Lifeboat do. Instead of focusing on what is in our little space we are trapped in, we are put into the point of view of one character that is also trapped and we look out at the world around us.

As said in my comparative essay of Rear Window and Disturbia (here), Rear Window is one of the few occasions that a peeping tom is actually rewarded for peeping. In general, peeping toms are viewed by society as a bad thing. This can be in the case of a man looking out his window at his neighbors, or the government peeping into it’s citizens business. Either way, it is never looked upon as healthy, or in good standing within anyone’s moral code. Somehow, despite all of this, Hitchcock finds some way to get us to truly sympathize with L.B. Jeffries, A photographer (interesting choice of profession for someone so interested in the lives of others) who has been injured and forced to spend some time in a wheelchair. Here we have the usual Hitchcock leading man, who has some limiting flaw that is the basic premise upon which the rest of the story is based around. Without this, just as in Vertigo, the film simply wouldn’t work.

The plot in short is about L.B. Jefferies, trapped in his apartment due to his impairment. He grows bored and with nothing else to do, stares out the “rear window” at his neighbors and becomes interested in their lives. Most of them live out ordinarily mundane lives, that Jefferies enjoys watching for its familiarity or dramatic conclusion (in the case of the arguing couple.) But when Jefferies grows suspicious of one of the people he peeps on, he has to wrestle with his own mind. Has he really seen what he thinks he has, or is he creating stories out of boredom, or basic human paranoia?

To me, Rear Window continues to be Hitchcock’s most entertaining work. I wouldn’t call it flawless, or his best, but on a mere entertainment level, I could watch this film over and over again.
What’s most interesting is the idea of peeping that is shown to us at the end with Jefferies girlfriend, Lisa , reading a book, and when noticing Jefferies is asleep she picks up a magazine. I found this to be her way of peeping on the lives of others, much as her beau was doing out the rear window.

It seems to be a commentary, not only on the discernment between reality and fiction, but on the way our lives affect those who see them, and on the fascination we have with seeing other people live their lives.

This film couldn’t be more appropriate than for our current age. Reality TV has grown so popular it warrants its own cable station. The tabloids are our rear windows. But if in the end our peeping grew rewarding, as it does here in this film, than is Hitchcock really commenting on us in a bad way? Or could he be saying watching the lives of others is a good thing, as it keeps them on their toes?

This is merely a question, as to me, I find that he isn’t only saying that it could be good or bad, he is simply stating that we cannot help but do it. Being peeping toms seems to be in our nature, every person to their own extent. Some may even consider films, books, songs and plays as ways of us peeping on the lives of others, especially considering the amount of films, books and plays that are written about real people. In just a few weeks W. will open and I’m sure people will be watching it in anticipation of peeping on the current president’s life.

This film takes Hitchcock’s usual blonde bombshell, but uses it in a different way than usual. Jefferies is afraid of commitment and will not give in to her endless questions about marriage and relationships. One could make the assumption that Jefferies wheel chair is simply a metaphor for his fear of intimacy. It certainly says something about the public. I enjoy watching films and getting different perspectives on ways of life, but rarely do I ever go out and participate in all these forms of life, or even with the different types of people I fall in love with on screen. While Jefferies seems to be in love with the woman, he cannot overcome this fear.

This brings us back to paranoia. Just as he is paranoid that his neighbor has murdered his wife, he is paranoid that someone will screw up the relationship and it will end bad, or if he appears vulnerable, he may be unlovable. This is a common fear among men, due mainly to insecurity, which Jefferies obviously has a lot of. Notice Jefferies didn’t know these neighbors after all the time he lived there, but he did know them after watching them from a safe place without having to reveal any of himself or be intimate in any way.

Perhaps this is what Stella means when she says “We’ve become a race of peeping toms.”


T.S. said...

Nice review of Rear Window. I agree with your assessment that it is his most entertaining film (I'd also go out on a limb and call it my favorite), and of course that is due to Hitchcock's spectacular manipulation of storytelling elements – hiding things from us, revealing them slowly, throwing red herrings in – and limited perspective of Jeff's apartment. It's a great film, and although I've been beyond busy, I've really enjoyed reading the series.

FilmDr said...

I've enjoyed reading the series too. I like Rear Window, although I've never entirely understood what Grace Kelly's character saw in Jeff.

Dead Pan said...

Thanks guys for keeping up with the series.

TS---Believe me, I can understand being busy. I have had to rush some of my writings in order to get them up in time. That's why Vertigo's write up is much more in depth than the rest of the series. I completely agree with that being all the reason's why Rear Window is so incredible. I must say though, that I think I find more depth and innovation is Psycho, so to me, at least at this point, that is my favorite.

Film Doctor---Thanks. I actually never thought much about that, but now that you bring it up I really don't exactly know why either. I get so focused on everything else, that the main relationship of the film actually eluded me in that sense. Thanks for pointing it out.

Marcy said...

To answer Film Doctor's question, I thought it was obvious what Lisa saw in Jefferies: She saw the same guy that we saw on-screen, as portrayed by James Stewart. The audience surely likes him, so why shouldn't Lisa?

I really need to catch up on your Hitchcock Marathon, Shawn. I love Rear Window and I enjoyed reading your review. The beauty of Rear Window is all in its simplicity. The simple storyline allows the characters and the commentary to develop one by one--something Hitchcock does best.

Dead Pan said...

Thanks Marcy. I'm glad to see you are still alive and with us. I am about to start a petition to get you to start blogging more regularly. Although I do understand how hard it can be sometimes.

Your assessment I would say rings totally true in my ears.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the marathon if you did this one. =)

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