At the film’s start, we see a murder taking place in an apartment. After ‘disposing’ of the body in a less-than-discreet place, our antagonists, Brandon Shaw (John Dall) and Phillip Morgan (Farley Granger) are in throws of preparing for a dinner party. Among the guests to this party are the victim’s fiance, father and former romantic rival. Rounding out the guest list is the pair’s former teacher and mentor, Rupert Cadell, portrayed by James Stewart.
As the evening transpires, the conversation becomes increasingly morose; and James Stewart’s Rupert begins to piece together that something is just not right. As the party dies down, Rupert makes the shocking and unimaginable discovery.
Rope has many layers to it. For one, the story is based on a play, which in turn was ‘inspired’ by the real life case of Leopold and Loeb, who were convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a 14 year old boy. It also deals with the intellectual exercise of executing the ‘perfect murder’ (presumably one where the perpetrators do not get caught). Another debate the characters have in the film is about the philosophical concept of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche‘s Übermensch (Superman) and the notion of one man’s superiority to another.
Rope is well regarded in film circles and among Hitchcock fans, but is not as well known to the general public. Among the film’s various accomplishments are:
- it is the first of Hitchcock’s Technicolor films
- it takes place in real time
- it was edited so as to appear as a single continuous shot through the use of long takes. This was achieved by panning, closeups and dissolves, among other techniques. (Source: Wikipedia)
This piece of cinema represents Hitchcock at his most experimental and daring. The idea of Hitchcock being an experimental filmmaker seems antithetical to the impression often associated with him – that is he is often characterized as a controlling taskmaster who methodically laid out all the scenes from his films shot-by-shot. It is worth seeing for this alone.
* For another Hitchcock recommendation this week, go to Flixchatter and read Ruth’s take on 1945’s Spellbound
* Also be sure to go to Todd Mason’s blog for more Overlooked Films