Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’

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The film ‘Rear Window’, directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1954, enthralled worldwide audiences through its clever and original depiction of a suburban murder. It is a widely renowned crime thriller that employs many conventions of the genre, while subverting others, in order to portray a realistic environment that collapses into tension and mistrust. The depiction of protagonist L. B Jefferies as the ‘everyman’ is an important subversion of the conventional detective, piquing the audiences curiosity and interest in the film. From behind Hitchcock’s camera we are invited the compassionately view the world of a ‘normal’ man who is plucked from his ordinary life through the extraordinary events that he witnesses. By playing with the idea of a ‘normal’ guy getting caught in threatening circumstances, Hitchcock suggests that crime can infiltrate any part of society, and affect anyone. Hitchcock’s inventive camerawork, in showing us the apartment complex from Jefferies’ point of view, is an interesting technique used to involve the viewer in the films action. By watching the other apartments through Jefferies’ binoculars and camera lens, we are incriminated in his voyeuristic pursuits. Later in the film Jefferies echoes the viewers sentiments, questioning the ‘ethics’ of ‘watching someone even if they’re not guilty’. Yet he continues to observe, and there is a certain ‘guilty thrill’ in that for both him and the audience. A subversion of the crime fiction genre occurs through Hitchcock’s depiction of the protagonist as injured and incapacitated. In both the ‘classical’ and ‘hard-boiled’ eras of crime fiction, the protagonist was portrayed as a ‘physical’ investigator. Particularly in texts like ‘The Big Sleep’, where investigator Philip Marlowe traverses multiple settings in order to piece together the differing parts of a crime. To overcome the limitations of an incapacitated protagonist Hitchcock gives the camera human qualities, making it view things Jefferies cannot, and revealing hints on character and plot details. The beginning of the film is a good example of how he employs this technique. The camera pans around Jefferies apartment, pausing on certain objects to emphasize their importance.

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