Rope ★★★★★

As a lesser-cited work in the Hitchcockian pantheon of films, Rope stands as a testament to the strength in depth of Hitchcock’s body of work. 

Telling a tale of murder that almost entirely seeks to evade the murder that is so intrinsic to the tension of the film is a bold move, and one which pays off brilliantly for Hitchcock. Though adapted from a stage play and shot with stage-like sensibilities in mind, famously creating a single shot aesthetic through clever editing, the film has a duality to its tone. It has the intimacy of the stage, but yet has the tension of attention to detail and cinematic build-up only achievable on film.

The cast are all on scintillating form, with James Stewart most notably showing almost a fragility that is a far cry from his reputation in Hollywood’s annals of stars. The characters of Brandon and Philip commit murder for the thrill of it, but though deplorable in intent, there is a genuine nervous sympathy afforded to them that is almost uncomfortable to admit to. One may find themself, even in knowledge of the conclusion’s inevitability, hoping that they do get away with it... there is an enigmatic charisma to Philip and a tortured guilt in Brandon that makes you wonder how their characterisation may have been furthered should they have gotten away with the ‘perfect murder’. But that’s all just musings alas.

Hitchcock commands his camera, his cast, and us with a puppetry that is almost criminally manipulative. As the finale teases us with the outcome we knew would come sooner or later, the lighting is alerting and the motion of the camera urgent, which accompanied by the theatrically fantastic performances of Farley Granger, John Dall, and Stewart, give us a climax that is breathtaking in its execution and raw filmic grandeur.

As an exercise in tension, in storytelling, and in innovative filming, Rope is surely one of the all-time greats of its genre and not just of Hitchcock’s body of work. Impeccable stuff, whether Hitch himself had reservations or not.

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