I always used to avoid Alfred Hitchcock films. I thought they were terrifying, even though my only frame-of-reference was The Birds, which I found mildly alarming at best. I was pleasantly surprised with Rear Window, which didn’t create an overwhelming fear in me (though I don’t know if that is because I read the short story by Cornell Woolrich before I watched this movie or not). I found myself immersed in getting Thorwald caught in his web of lies and Jimmy Stewart brought out the voyeuristic side of me.
In fact, something I really enjoyed was the film’s commentary on voyeurism. Almost the entire film is shot from the view of Jefferies’ window, so what Jeff sees, the viewer sees. And Jeff spends a lot of time looking out that window. But the film also plays with that fact; at one point Grace Kelly’s character Lisa calls Jeff out for the amount of creeping he does on his neighbors, which reminds the viewers that they too are invading these people’s lives.
Compared to the short story, I was also impressed at how sexualized Jefferies is in the film. One of the first shots is him watching his dancing neighbor, Mrs. Torso, prance around her apartment in her underwear. The story’s only female character was the murdered Mrs. Thorwald, but in the movie both of Jefferies caregivers and supporters are female, Lisa and Thelma.
I mostly identified with Thelma. I think I would be that person, eating a piece of toast, talking about how Thorwald had to use the bathroom because that’s the only place he could easily clean up the blood. I also think I would be just adventurous enough to go dig up a garden, but definitely not bold enough like Lisa, who sneaked into Thorwald’s house to get the main piece of evidence, the wedding ring.
I thought it was interesting that the film allowed us to see one thing the short story didn’t. Majority of the time, what Jefferies sees, the viewer sees – its the same in the story. However, the film showed Jeff falling asleep and then a woman and Thorwald leaving the apartment in the early morning hours. Obviously we are told this later by Doyle, but to actually see it creates some distrust in the viewers with Jeff. Those who haven’t read the story don’t know what is going on, they don’t know that Jeff is actually right, which allows that one shot to keep the viewers questioning for a while on whether or not we should believe this crazy lunatic trapped in a cast for seven weeks.
I also can’t even apologize for this, but I was more upset with Thorwald for killing that innocent little dog than anything else in the film. Does this make me a terrible person? Probably. But I’m okay with that because head’s up, this is a dog-friendly blog and always will be.
Definitely my favorite film we’ve screened so far and I am so glad I was able to start watching more of Hitchcock’s films. Next on my list is Psycho (yes, I am aware I suck because I haven’t seen this yet)
so unbelievably accurate.