Rear Window is an American suspense film released in 1954 and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, a man who is commonly known by his pen name William Irish. The film is based on the film â€œIt Had to Be Murderâ€, a 1942 short story by Cornell Woolrich (Fawell 2). The main cast of the Rear Window movie are L.B. â€œJeffâ€ Jefferies (James Stewart), Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter, and Wendell Corey. Jeff talks an active role in the movie as indicated by the following quote:
â€œJeff: ‘Miss Lonelyhearts.’ Well, at least that’s something you’ll never have to worry about.
Lisa: Oh? You can see my apartment from here, all the way up on 63rd Street?
Jeff: No, not exactly…â€
It is evident that during the making of Rear Window, Hitchcock had to transform a short story into a film that would run for a couple of hours on screen. This was accomplished through the integration of a host of characters, both major and minor, together with plenty of themes that were either missing from the original Woolrich story or modestly hinted at while keeping the storyline almost the same Woolrich’s It Had to Be Murder film. It must be noted that there is a stroke of genius in the way in which Hitchcock is able to fuse the new and characteristically Woolrichian elements to bring about a well-woven film, the Rear Window.
Just like the protagonists in â€œIt Had to Be Murderâ€ depicted by Woolrich, the Jeffries in Rear Window comes out not only as an immobilized man but also as a man alone. In line with Hitchcock’s visualization as seen through Stewart, Jeffries appears as an overly complex character. Woolrich portrays Jeffries as a blank slate, lacking anyone to talk to except Sam, a compassionate black houseman whom Hitchcock drops from the story. Hitchcock is further able to distinguish the Jeffries character through introduction of Grace Kelly and Thelma Ritter characters along with the expansion of Wendell Corey’s role as police detective (Fawell 26).
The setting of the Rear window film is indeed depictive, a realistic courtyard consisting of 32 apartments located at an imaginary address in Manhattan. The main protagonist is able to watch or spy or play spectator at the neighbors from his â€˜rear window’. Interestingly, the camera angles are greatly from the protagonist’s own house in a way that enables the audience to see the inhabitants of the neighboring apartments almost completely from his perspective. In this sense, this enables the film viewer to share in the protagonist’s voyeuristic surveillance.
In Rear Window, just like in It Had to Be Murder, Hitchcock’s camera has the privilege of exploring anywhere. The camera moves around in extremely precise movements with frequent change of view of the architecture. As it moves in and back, the rectangular portion of the revealed wall becomes larger or smaller respectively. Similarly, Hitchock’s framing holds great significance in the sense that both the frame and the lens are strategically positioned to show exactly what Hitchcock wants to view in the opposite apartment. The camera movements are largely aerial with freedom to explore everything and select particular points of interests, and complimented by gradual tight close-ups in the courtyard.
In respect to light treatment, Rear Window is chiefly built in shades of red and green. The apartment walls are shown in shades of green or red, often pinkish. The restaurant has red check table clothing as well as a red neon sign while the light in Burr’s hall is red-orange (Fawell 42). Also the protagonist sets off a huge blaze of light when he makes use of a flash bulb in one of the scenes. This is one of the stunts that make him stand out to the viewer.Â