Monday, 30 January 2017

Film Review - Rope

The 1948 film Rope was directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It was based on a play of the same name written in 1929. The film follows two men who murder a friend of theirs and then proceed to host a party, all while the dead body is hidden in a trunk in the room. As the party progresses and the guests remain unaware of their friends death, Phillip is shown slowly falling to his guilt while Brandon remains unnervingly cheerful about his success until inevitably Rupert figures out their secret.

Figure 1 - Movie Poster

The film is shot without any cuts which adds to the feeling of it being a play. The limitations of the time meant that there was no way to film in one solid chunk, as such 'Hitchcock's camera was loaded with 10-minute reels, and had to duck behind an actor's back, or a piece of furniture, to "invisibly" cut from one piece of film to the next.' (Hutchinson, 2012). This meant the room often felt small to the viewer as they were shoehorned behind various objects and people.

It also adds suspense in that the viewer is often left unable to see characters or hear dialogue clearly, leaving them unable to gauge the characters they can't see. The use of the continuous shot allows for the passing of time to be shown which allowed the film to keep it's suspense. As Ebert said 'The play depended, for its effect, on the fact that it was one continuous series of actions. Once the characters have entered the room, there can’t be any jumps in time, or the suspense will be lost. The audience must know that the body is always right there in the trunk.' (Ebert, 1984).

The emphasis on the trunk is further enhanced by Hitchcock keeping the trunk in the front of a multitude of shots, as seen in figure 2. One shot that uses the trunk to it's advantage in this way is when the maid is clearing the dinner away as seen in figure 3. '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).

Figure 2, The Trunk

Figure 3, Maid putting the books away
The way the camera moves adds to the tension in the room as it makes the place feel smaller and everyone in it feel more cramped together. This in turn makes it feel as though 'They're trapped, and so is the audience. Perversely, this cinematic experiment replicates the theatrical experience: Rope feels "live", which means that at any minute one of the actors could do something unexpected, such as fluff their lines, or heaven forbid, open the trunk.' (Hutchinson, 2012). As such the viewer is constantly waiting to see not to see if they Phillip and Brandon will get found out but rather when they will.

Image List:

Figure 1, Movie Poster -

Figure 2, The Trunk -

Figure 3, Maid putting the books away -


Canby, V, 1984, 'Rope': A Stunt to Behold (Online) - (accessed on 30/01/2017)

Ebert, R, 1984, Rope (Online) - (accessed on 30/01/2017)

Hutchinson, P, 2012, My favourite Hitchock: Rope (Online) - (accessed on 30/01/2017)

1 comment: