A classy murder
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Written by: Patrick Hamilton (play), Hume Cronyn (adaptation)
Starring: James Stewart, John Dall and Farley Granger
For Hitchcock, all it takes is one location, a few mesmerizing characters and a simple, yet compelling plot that strains our suspense to almost painful lengths – always with an eye for the disturbing and bizarre.
Rope, originally being a stage production, is taken to the screen with an appreciation for theatre’s emphasis on dialogue, and its reliance on gesture and performance as a means of holding an audience’s attention, whilst simulatneously providing us with cinematic movement that strings all the cuts together like one long take. Limited to one location, a handful of characters, and a murder case that plays with the possibility of being revealed, Rope is a perfect film for the perfect murder.
Brandon (Dall) and Phillip (Granger) murder an old classmate of theirs from prepschool after being inspired by the dangerous ideas of ‘privileged murder’ and the division of superior and inferior beings taught by their housemaster, Rupert Cadell (Stewart). After hiding the body in a chest, the two host a dinner party and invite their victim’s closest friends and family to eat supper off the chest as a finishing touch to the masterpiece of their murder. But as Rupert becomes increasingly suspicious of the party’s cause for celebration, the two murderers become increasingly anxious of whether their much-admired housemaster will condemn or understand the cold logic behind their actions.
As Hitchcock’s camera guides the audience through black humour, disturbing irony and suspense that has you as flustered as the murderers themselves, Rope is a classic thriller that deserves recognition for its clever minimalism and its immaculate choreography. While we already know whosdunit and who is most likely to uncover the truth, it is the unpredictable nature of how the discovery will eventuate and the consequences it entails that keep us captivated to the very last frame.