Rope (1948) – A Brief Analysis
For a mainstream film maker like Hitchcock, that too collaborating with one of his favourite actors James Stewart, every film buff might just expect a regular. But this could very well be stamped as ‘experimental’ in terms of its making though not too much on its content. The movie doesn’t throw itself to morality behind the plot, and just cares much for the making style. Since the film time is equal to the real time, Hitchcock employs long takes to bring about the sense of continuity for the viewers. Many critics around the world have generally opined that he amount of experimental stuff that has gone with the making doesn’t seem really to be matching on par with an average plot like this.
Yes the plot is so shot. The film mainly focuses on the internal confrontations of two individuals, who share polar differences in their takes on the crime they have committed and their general mental makeup. It doesn’t stand firm on moral grounds of the theme but as pointed out earlier just focuses on delivering the Hitchcockian thrill. Perhaps the maker should have considered the challenge of creating his trade mark thrills and chills in a milieu that is set in the same house throughout, hardly visiting a couple of rooms in that home too.
John Dall as Brandon delivers a beautiful portrayal of a dominant, boisterous young man, who oozes his intellectual arrogance in every frame he fills. Literally he seems to be enjoying the inconveniences that he creates to Janet Walker by deliberately making her meet with Kenneth, with a touch of sadism.
Philip on the other hand portrays equally well as a restless, submissive, fearful mischievous youngster who had by all means committed the crime just because he was convinced to do it. He is a man who lacks self thinking and is easily tuned to dance for Brandon’s tune. His face flaunts his anxiety precisely which easily gathers the attention of his prep-school master Mr. Rupert.
John Stewart as Mr. Rupert has very little to look for as an investigator, hence he just shares the common curiousness of a man who attempts to know what he had smelt to be wrong. Yet at the moment of revelation of the crime, when Brandon goes on justifying his deed, quoting his own conversation with Rupert about killing, he clearly portrays his stand that the idea had been a severe miscommunication.
The framing and positioning the characters at those heated arguments towards the ultimate scene is note worthy as they elevate the viewing experience by clearly transporting the restlessness of the characters to the audience.
Various critics recently have also noted the homosexual subtexts that run between Brandon and Philip in the film, though the film not glaringly notes it at the first place. Interestingly the actors who portrayed the characters are homosexuals in real life. We may not find direct references on homosexuality to bind the characters together. However the piano piece that Philip nervously plays while Rupert is conversing with him in an investigating tone is the work of a homosexual composer. Owing to the strict production codes then in the late 40s this context is less pronounced in the film.
Given the nature of the plot and the method of treatment to it, as a viewer one could only derive momentary thrills every now and then, purely reserved for the ‘what-would-happen-next’ expectations and there is not much offer waiting for the viewer to derive the thrill from any other mean. Had it been Rupert’s investigative methods to arrive at the truth little more interesting it would have gripped us more. In spite of this it delivers a good watch, and you may spend a good seventy five minutes of your leisure.