English Language Wednesday: Rope (1948)

18 05 2011

Without a doubt one of Alfred Hitchcock’s more under-rated films, “Rope” tells the story of two young men who had just murdered their classmate. They do this being under the impression that those who are superior intellectually do not need to abide by the laws and rules set out for “common man”. So to follow through with this belief they murder their apparently “inferior” classmate David Kentley, played by Dick Hogan in his final role. In an act of sadistic humor, they do this right before a big party in which David’s girlfriend, parents, as well as himself was supposed to attend. This cruel game of theirs continues as not only does one of them begin to break down, their old teacher from boarding school, Rupert Cadell (James Stewart), begins to suspect what may have happened to David. “Rope” is truly an experimental film, it is not only Hitchcock’s first color movie but also done in only ten takes over the 80 minute runtime. Despite the different approach, this is still a very worthy Hithcock film.

“I’ve always wished for more artistic talent.”

That is something the smart and charming Brandon (John Dall) says after he commits the murder, but it is a statement which I don’t believe could apply to Alfred Hitchcock because most film-makers today are still trying to catch up to him. Although it is an experimental film it is also a huge success. Hitchcock films long take after long take without ever leaving the position of the camera in between. This causes to movie to feel like it is done in one endless scene, like you’d see in the play it was adapted from. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if Hitchcock would have attempted longer cuts if the technology at the time had allowed it. Despite this movie being over 60 years old this is still a very effective technique for storytelling, yet the difficulties it presents causes almost every director to shy away. Although Hitchcock would later dismiss the long takes as a stunt it still shows how far ahead of his time he truly was.

“We killed for the sake of danger and for the sake of killing. “

Danger is something Brandon consistently flirts with throughout the night and his partner in crime Phillip (Farley Granger) starts to lose his mind because of it. The dinner party is but a game to Brandon but every moment someone comes closer to figuring out what happened to David. Hitchcock is famous for producing suspense and he allows a very carefully constructed slow-burn to build upon each moment to the climax of the film, never releasing the viewer. This is a small departure from his regular routine of building tension in smaller doses towards a plot point or twist whereas here Hitchcock doesn’t release for over an hour until the very end.

“Rope” is not Hitchcock’s best movie, far from it, but it is without a doubt still a great film that just gets overshadowed by such an outstanding filmography.

Score: 85/100

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