Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window was filmed in a very interesting style that required nearly all of the shots to be filmed from the main character’s apartment. This style gave the feeling that the viewer was confined to a very small location, just as the main character was throughout the movie. Hitchcock was able to keep the viewer entertained by using a variety of different shots and a great plot.
The opening shot for Rear Window was a long rotating pan that displayed the setting for the film (all of the apartments that surrounded the courtyard). This shot was particularly interesting because it transitioned very smoothly from a wide angle shot of the courtyard to a close up shot of L.B. Jefferies’ face. This shot was used several times throughout the movie at different part of the day and night to establish the scene and what the characters were doing at a particular moment. This shot can be considered a pan because it moved primarily in the horizontal direction that followed the apartment buildings.
This panning motion also moved vertically to show rising and falling of a particular character or important scenes. An example of the rising and falling movement was when the neighbor’s dog was being lowered in the basket and the camera followed it directly to another neighbor’s apartment. This smooth style of transitioning to different apartments was used several times throughout the film. A very interesting part about the film was that the camera never went into any of the apartment’s being shown. The only way the viewer could see into the other settings of the buildings was through the neighbor’s windows when Jefferies looked through binoculars or the telephoto lens on his camera.
The telephoto shots that looked into the neighbor’s apartments made the movie more interesting and suspenseful because it would only show a very narrow view point of what was happening in that scene. The use of a vignette around the telephoto shots also made the viewer feel like they were actually looking through the telescope or binoculars with the character. The use of zoom was also used when the two main characters were having intimate moments. Hitchcock used the camera to show close up shots of the characters kissing, being up close with these shots added to the intimacy of the scene.
The way the scenes were set up also made the film very interesting to watch. Hitchcock utilized so much of the frame in his shots making sure that there was always action occurring both in the foreground, middle ground and background. In the image above, the full frame is being fully utilized by the characters having a dialogue (foreground), the neighbor in her apartment (middle ground) and the large city skyline in the background.
Hitchcock also had great awareness of how to set up the frame for dialogue as well. In the screenshot of the movie above, the viewer can see that Hitchcock occupied the left third of the screen with Jefferies’ head and left the remaining portion of the frame to be occupied by Lisa Fremont. Setting up the frame like this made the viewer only pay attention to what the person facing the camera was saying and made for a much smoother conversation. The use of light in this shot also made the view pay attention to the person in the background because they were the only character in the shot fully visible.
The use of light throughout the film made shots, like the one in the screenshot above, more suspenseful and more complex that just a simple shot that was full of light. Placing the light only on Thorwald’s face made his character seem more suspicious and intense. This style of shot is very common in suspenseful movies because it forces the viewer to only pay attention to that one portion of the screen. Hitchcock only wanted the viewer to see Thorwald’s face because throughout the whole movie the audience was only observing this character from far away. Having this close up shot of his face allowed the viewer to make direct eye contact and the darkness surrounding him confirmed that he was the true villain who killed his wife.
Another interesting part about the film were the length of the shots. Typically, in modern movies the shots are very quick and do not last for more than a few seconds. In Rear Window, the shots usually lasted much longer than modern films especially when there was dialogue between two characters. These shots were so smooth by using steady camera work that I would often forget it was a continuos shot until 10+ seconds into it.
Out of Place Shot:
One of the shots that was out of place in this film was the close up shot of the ballet dancer after the neighbor’s dog was killed. This shot was out of place because it contradicted the style that Hitchcock had been following up to that point in the film. Every shot up until that point originated from Jefferies’ apartment. This shot however put the viewer on the balcony of another apartment instead of staying with the style of the rest of the film:
In conclusion, Rear Window was one of the best movies I have seen in a very long time. I always love to watch movies from that time because in order to be successful they rely on a great plot and great filming techniques and not special effects. The only special effects in this film were the shots of Jeff falling off of the balcony and the orange animations after the flashes were fired (even though the animations were crude they were still great for that time period). The final interesting part about this movie was the shot at the end of the film. The shot that ended the film was the exact same shot that opened the film. The long panning shot at the end showed what had changed since the beginning of the film and was a very cool way to end it.