Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Cutting Edges - Rope (1948) - Film Review

Constructed entirely from uncut ten-minute shot, Rope (1948) is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s more experimental films even though it didn’t work out. “Alfred Hitchcock called Rope an ‘experiment that didn’t work out’, and he was happy to see it kept out of release for most of three decades. Rope remains one of the most interesting experiments ever attempted by a major director working with box-office names, and it’s worth seeing [...].” (Roger Ebert, 1984).


Rope’s argument is about the Nietzschean philosophy between a couple of students and their professor. Hitchcock also plays with situations involving the inconvenience of dead bodies; but this doesn’t make the film successful: “Also the emphasis on the macabre in this small story is frightfully intense. And it seems to this public observer that time could be better spent than by watching a waspish cocktail party in a room with a closely present corpse, placed there by a couple of young men who have killed for a thrill and nothing more.” (Bosley Crowther, 1948).
It starts with Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger) who are two young college students who want to prove their intellectual superiority. So they kill their friend David Kentley (Dick Holan) and hide his body in an unlocked trunk where a party is taking place and dinner is going to be served. The guests of this party are David’s father Mr. Kentley (Cedric Hardwickle), his aunt Mrs. Atwater (Constance Collier), his fiancée Janet (Joan Chandler), his best friend Kenneth (Douglas Dick) and their college professor Rupert Cadell (James Steward). They are all aware of what has happened. But their professor starts to suspect and he finally discovers that Brandon and Phillip have killed David.

The strong performance from Dall, Granger and Steward creates drama and suspense. But, as Bosley Crowther of The New York Times said, “the novelty of the picture is not in the drama itself, it being a plainly deliberate and rather thin exercise in suspense, but merely in the method which Mr. Hitchcock has used to stretch the intended tension for the length of the little stunt for a story of meager range” (Bosley Crowther, 1948). The camera follows the killers wherever they go, their goings and their comings, so it seems as if they are caught.
Hitchcock had to deal with time and space. This means that there can’t be jumps in time, or the suspense will be lost. The audience must know that the body is always in the trunk. The play is an 80 minutes scene taken in ten minutes long segments. It was not edited and there are not visible cuts between the segments. It seems as if all the events take place in one uninterrupted act, as a continuous shot. And this is why Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope is well known for.

Illustration list:
Figure 2. Rupert, Brandon and Phillip [Film Still] At:

Fernando F. Croce (2006) Rope At:
Pamela Hutchinson (2012) My favourite Hitchcock: Rope At:

Bosley Crowther (1948) The Screen In Review; ‘Rope,’ an Exercise in Suspense Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Is New Bill at the Globe At:

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