(*Originally written for my Intro to Film course)
Introduction to Film
1 March 2007
Protocol Paper #3: Movement and ROPE
In Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, due to the nature of the entire film taking place in one setting in real time, with its intentionally minimalist approach to editing, the spectator is forced to view and analyze the technical and contextual elements in a more subtle manner than typical of motion pictures today. Without relying on fast cuts, montages, or any other facet of complexity in execution, Hitchcock has left us with a movie which is dependant on every last word of dialogue in order to communicate the plot line and emotions of the characters, and simple camera movement to communicate themes via the analyzed grammar of film technique. The camera itself acts as a spectator throughout the film, ease-dropping on the various characters’ conversations. Regardless if a dialogue is meant to be private, the spectator is consistently either following from room to room, or when in stasis, is viewing the scene from behind the central object of the film; this being of course the chest which Brandon and Phillip choose to place David’s body in, and later serve their buffet off. The camera acting in a third person point of view, coupled with the picture taking place in seamless, real time, drives home the fact that even the most delicate of camera movement serves to add a more colorful purpose to any scene in Rope.
Although there are many scenes that could be dissected, the most outstanding example of the literal nature of this technique of motion conveying a greater theme found in the plot, takes place in a scene toward the ultimate conclusion, wherein Brandon’s ego gets the best of him, in asking Rupert how he would go about committing such a murder, or what Brandon and Phillip called a “perfect murder.” This scene begins in a static shot, with both Brandon and Rupert in the dominant contrast of the frame. Rupert’s dialogue in answering Brandon becomes something of a narrative for the subsequent camera motion; essentially, the camera, as spectator, begins to pan away from both Brandon and Rupert, “pantomiming” the locations in the room which Rupert describes he would direct David, before killing him. (Hitchcock). His description is nearly identical to what Brandon and Phillip actually did, symbolizing a “meeting of the minds,” with the exception of how Rupert would dispose of the body, allowing the possibility of being seen, and thus facing imperfection. Theme-wise, although at this point Rupert is fairly sure that Phillip and Brandon have killed David, he is reluctant to address the possibility of his body being inside the chest. Instead he describes that he would take the body outside and stuff it in his car. From here, the camera avoids focusing on the chest in the room; instead, staying off Brandon and Phillip, it continues to pan all the way to the door. This motion symbolizes both what is Rupert’s reluctance to open his mind to the fact that they indeed did kill David. Although the very intelligent Rupert certainly may have considered placing the body in the chest, he did not want to accept the idea of committing such a crime. This the camera omitting the chest from the shot, and instead fluidly panning toward the door, or the exit from which Rupert says he would hypothetically move toward. This could also represent his anxiety toward the situation, feeling an urge to exit the situation and deny the likelihood of its realism.
Throughout the film, Brandon and Phillip reference how in their past Rupert would often talk about how a superior intellectual should and could commit a perfect murder, himself included. Brandon especially wanting to prove himself better than Rupert, sought out to commit such a murder. Having done it, Brandon and the more reluctant Phillip bask in what they see as finally initiating their superiority over their former teacher, Rupert; while Rupert would simply discuss and hypothesize about the philosophy of intellectuals being able to kill off those inferior, they have indeed done it. This concept of ceasing simply talking about what Rupert essentially sees as a “thought experiment” and exercise in radical questioning of structures of modern sociology, and actually putting it into action, makes Brandon and Phillip feel above he. In actuality this is the opposite case, as Rupert explains that while he does not understand how the world and certain people operate, calling it a “cold, dark place,” his words regarding murder were merely exercises and fodder for philosophical discussion. He states that, while he enjoys these sorts of thought experiments, that’s all they are. There was always something in him that kept him from ever entertaining actually putting them into practice. This is due to what seems to be Rupert’s penchant for pure intellectual stimulation and wisdom, while the killers that became Brandon and Phillip, merely sought to use their knowledge against others, to hurt, and simply to attempt to gain attention and a sense of superiority in order to compensate for insecurity toward their character and intellect.
Works Cited :
Hitchcock, Alfred, Rope, Warner Bros., 1948