Rope

Alfred Hitchcock, USA 1948, 80 minutes

Rope is famous for being filmed, with the exception of a couple of reaction shots, as if in one continuous take. As such, the whole of the film takes place in real time, within the confines of a New York apartment.

Two students (Farley Granger and John Dall) commit the `perfect' murder to demonstrate their intellectual superiority. They hide their victim's body in a chest and invite his parents and other friends, including their philosophy professor (James Stewart) to their apartment for dinner. Granger and Dall anticipate that only Stewart will be able to deduce what they have done, but will also appreciate the artistry of the act. Will they prove correct?

Hitchcock regarded Rope as a failure, too close to its stageplay origins. Unsurprising really, given that the ultra long takes deprived him of the main weapons in his cinematic arsenal - manipulative editing and control of the audiences viewpoint. Rope however, is impressive in other ways. The eight ten-minute takes had to be painstakingly choreographed, with sets being mounted on castors so they could be silently moved in and out of the way as required. Also noteworthy is the skyline `outside' the apartment, as night falls and lights go on in the buildings opposite. Rather less satisfactory though are the characters walking in front of the camera to block our view in a vain attempt to conceal cuts necessitated by the end of a reel of film.

Nevertheless, Rope remains worth seeing, for its difference from cinema in general and from the rest of Hitchcock's work in particular.

Review by Keith H Brown
Taken from EUFS Programme 1997-98