RJ Bayley Reviews: Rear Window


It’s amazing just how far ahead of his time director Alfred Hitchcock was. His most identifiable work, 1960’s Psycho, could easily have been made a decade later in 1970 and still be fresh. The same’s true of Rear Window, which you’d be forgiven for thinking is later than Psycho. In fact, it’s six years before it, but likewise seems like a product of later times.

Most unusually striking element is the incredible soundscape Hitchcock creates inside his setting. The disparate sounds that drift from different apartments, mixing in the central area behind the homes, are uncannily accurate. From undecipherable conversations filtered through shutters, to music played on the radio and the by a musician, to the noises of parties and pets, it’s wonderful. So too is the sound mixing, the quality of this diegetic soundtrack, its realness, is astonishing. Yet Hitchcock also uses it in most cinematic ways. This is particularly evident during a terse conversation between L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart) and Lisa (Grace Kelly). Underlining their verbal sparring is the voice of a female opera singer drifting through the window, hauntingly.

Rear Window’s sense of place is incredible. The sound plays a huge part in establishing this as a close, confined space, a place where many people’s naked lives are lived so closely to each other but as though nobody can see. The other major contributor to this effect is the choreography of the extras. We don’t spend any time with them, yet each one becomes immediately identifiable by their behaviours, their movements, even their artistic pursuits.

Enough has been said about the fantastic acting and storytelling on show in Rear Window. Hopefully the above points will bolster what a great film it is.


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