we dislike him so much

Film Rope is a film of firsts. The director's first use of technicolour, though trust Hitchcock to have been given the gift of technicolour then use it in a film completely set in a drab apartment with characters wearing muted colours. First appearance for Jimmy Stewart in a Hitchcock film, as the professor of the murderous boys or eventually figures out the mechanics of their scheme, here resting just between a Capraesque everyman and morally ambiguous figure of Rear Window and Vertigo. First time Hitchcock manages to make a film in which the suspense develops even without the need for fast cutting and the reduction of information. First time that a director intended to give the impression of one continuous shot running right through the film (a subject covered in some detail at the wikipedia).

It’s a technical tour-de-force. In these days of digital-cameras in which Mike Figgis can shoot four whole feature films simultaneously in real time and have them all interact with each other and then repeat the process daily over a whole month (which is how he shot Timecode), it’s perhaps difficult to accept the effort that went into stitching together the eighty-minutes of Rope. But these were heavy cameras; furniture and parts of the set had to be pulled in and out and silently too since he was actually recording naked sound from the stage and blocking everything out so that the end of each ten minute reel of film matched the right point so that the next one could pick up hassle free. And on top of that, having to reshoot the second half of the film again because the director of photography had misunderstood what was needed to show the on-creep of dawn though the sky-light.

The actors have said they appreciated the opportunity to develop their roles over a longer scene without too much directorial interference. The cast of Timecode said much the same thing. Except in Rope, there’s no improvisation, everyone has to stay on-script, since to dawdle, to throw in some new element would ruin the timing, which makes the performances all the more impressive. True, there’s an element of stage acting, but even in a theatre (and in a television studio) there’s latitude to move about. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to not only have to remember Patrick Hamilton’s dialogue but also the blocking, especially John Dall, who is in nearly every scene. It’s arguably his sneer that makes moments like the famous one in which the camera stays on the wooden chest work, because we dislike him so much we’re desperate for Stewart to realise where the body has been left.

No comments:

Post a comment