Monday, 19 January 2015

Story Telling Film Review - Rope

Rope is a 1948 film by Alfred Hitchcock starring John Dall and Farley Granger as two young men who have engage in a murder only to be uncovered following their audacious celebration disguised as a party.

The film begins with two young men Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger) committing the murder of apparent close friend David (Dick Hogan) as an act of stimulation, whereas Phillip is immediately regrettful Brandon is exhilirated by the act calling it an"art" and proclaiming his superiorority and the right to play God within the rest of society. He audaciously holds a party in a covert elebration of such an act but this combined with his arrogance, Phillip's poor nerves and the prying of a friend  ultimately contribute to their demise.

The chest that contains the body of David is central to the plot as Brandon uses it to hold the dinner items from which several people take food from seemingly without knowing. The camera focuses on the chest only when people become suspicious of it, this feels like it keeps the tension at bay until the questions about David's disappearance become more prying and serious.

Vincent Canby of the New York Times states; " It swoops and pries about the set, moving from close-ups to long shots to medium shots, with a kind of studied indifference. One high point: While the guests are discussing something of no great moment just off- screen, the camera, catlike, stares at the chest as the maid gets ready to put some books back into it, unaware, of course, that the chest is already fully occupied." (Canby, 1984) In agreement with this quote is the point about the camera staring at the chest, the tension builds as the guests discuss David's absence and just before the Maid can open it she is distracted. The camera also remains in a single secquence as if to give the film continuous action.

 Figure 1 - Brandon decides to move the dinner service onto the chest.

Brandon's idea to move the items onto the chest containing David is intentionally risky and is meant to further stimulate himself and Phillip as the guests enjoy food off the grave of a dead man. An obscure but interesting observation about Brandon is his blue suit, all of the other guests wear either grey or faint maroon suits, whether this is done intentionally or within the film to single him out is not known.

There are a few clues as to where Brandon's murderous ideas come from; during the course of the film we meet a prep-school teacher by the name of Rupert who discusses his theories about murder, Brandon gleefully approves of such theories and goes on to nominate himself as a suitable candidate for such powers. There could be some friction between Brandon and Rupert as both appear to be quite dominating characters, since Rupert was Brandon's dorm-master during prep-school it is quite possible that Brandon desires to impress or even become more powerful than Rupert by committing murder. This however is part of their downfall as when the body is discovered Rupert has an epiphany about his theories and becomes disenchanted with his ideals.

Figure 2 - Rupert questions Phillip
David M. Keyes of Cinemaphile notes in his review; "And the most famous of the Hitchcock gimmicks – what I like to refer to as “the incriminating object” – is used to great skill here to further the advancement of necessary revelations (first with the rope being used to tie up a stack of books, and later when Rupert stumbles upon David Kentley’s monogramed hat in the coat closet)" (Keyes, 2014). In one of the scenes Rupert questions Phillip, there is a metronome ticking in the background as the tempo of the monotone increases so does the energy of the conversation culminating in Rupert's assumption that something wrong has occured. Some items in the film (such as the rope) are used to elicit a reaction, such as Phillip's reaction when he sees the rope being used to bind books, this further causes the movie to escalate and helps to move the relatively fluid plot along.

Figure 3 - Brandon and Phillip converse
Brandon and Phillip share a close (probably homosexual) relationship, despite this it is clear that Brandon is the more dominating one. Phillip rarely gets his way with Brandon exercising his will without resistance. Phillip tries to be cautious though his nerves ultimately contribute to the failure of their plan and Brandon tries to cover by inventing bogus excuses for Phillips irrational behaviour later on in the film.

 It is clear in the start of the film that their relationship is slightly rocky however later on it becomes openly strained and Phillip begins to dissent.

Another interestin aspect of the film is the skyline, despite its dynamic and impressive 3D aspect it is in fact a set construction. Emanuel Levy of Cinema 24/7 states: "Hitchcock constructed a set that encompassed 35 square miles of skyline, including such landmarks as the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. The skyline included an ad for Reduco, featuring a before and after silhouette of Hitchcock; a similar gag was also used in a newspaper in “Lifeboat.” (Levy, 2007). As mentionted above the backdrop has a 3D aspect about it this makes the set more believable. Since the film takes place in full view of the backdrop it is something that cannot be ignored, the fact that the backdrop changes from evening to night is impressive, during the latter stages of the film when the crime is being uncovered a red/green advertising light flashes out, this gives a more dynamic and energetic effect to the scenes.

Vincent Canby, 1984, [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 16th January 2015]

David M. Keyes, 2014 [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 18th January 2015]

Emanual Levy, 2007, [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed on 19th January 2015]

Illustration List
Figure 1 - Alfred Hitchcock, 1948, Rope-pic-1.jpg [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed14th January 2015]

Figure 2 - Alfred Hitchcock, 1948, Rope_US_005015.jpg [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 18th January 2015]

Figure 3 - Alfred Hitchcock, 1948, hqdefault.jpg [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 19th January 2015]

1 comment:

  1. A very satisfying review Max :)

    Just be careful of your spelling; you have missed a few letters off here and there... and the ticking thing on the piano is called a 'metronome' :)