I’m working my way through the Hitchcock films I haven’t yet seen. Rope is not as well-known as Rear Window or Psycho but its still a great film. It has a quiet intensity, relying almost exclusively on clever story line and a natural, flowing dialogue to create the characteristic Hitchcock suspense.
Two college students, drastically misinterpreting and taking out of context a message from their college professor, decide to murder one of their classmates because, in their minds, he is inferior. They believe throwing a party for the newly departed’s friends and family will give them the alibi they need to be beyond suspicion. However, they invite the professor to the party and he becomes increasingly more suspicious. The result is an hour-long taught game of psychological chess as the college students attempt to outplay the professor by suspending disbelief.
Considering the setting is in one room of a NYC apartment, there is a lot going on; keeping track of the cast of characters, their relationships and the motivations for the dialogue requires attention. Hopefully your attention will not be distracted by the laughably fake NYC backdrop omnipresent out of the living room window – it was the 40’s after all.
Jimmy Stewart gives this film its visceral feel as Rupert, the professor who becomes increasingly suspicious of his students. He plays to their psychology of superiority, at times delivery honest reactions as obfuscation, but mostly leveraging their belief system by creating a false storyline to extract the truth.
As the story evolves, filming makes use of first person tracking, from the perspective of Rupert, to hunt for evidence. The dialogue and the tracking imparts a stronger sense of tension; the dialogue going down one path, the visuals going down another. While the students used a rope to murder, in the end the noose is ever-tightening around their necks as the professor shows them, maybe, they aren’t quite as superior as they thought.
If you’re a Hitchcock fan, this one is must see.