Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954, USA)

          Rear Window is essential viewing from Alfred Hitchcock, and one of the directors’ most enduring and memorable works. It expresses a lot of his trademark obsessions, most notably his interest in voyeurism. Rear Window is also exceedingly relevant in our digital age. In 2020, we have all become L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries, watching others’ lives through the screens of our phones. Hitchcock delivers a remarkably thoughtful examination of how we construct the inner lives of people we don’t truly know through what is only partially revealed to us. One could quite easily imagine a remake of the film today in which the protagonist discovers a murderer on Instagram.

               Beyond the thematic obsessions, Rear Window also expresses the director’s technical expertise. The film takes place entirely through Jimmy Stewart’s view of a Greenwich Village courtyard. The set is incredibly detailed and complex, and it is a marvel to watch as the camera travels from window to window, sharing moments from the lives of its residents. The film’s use of purely diegetic sound is also remarkable, and conveys the energy of city life.

               One of the most interesting aspects of Rear Window is the moral dubiousness of Jeff’s crusade to uncover a murder he has witnessed by spying on one of his neighbors. Like Scottie in Vertigo, Jeff is another one of Hitchcock’s heroes who are obsessive and creepy. Grace Kelly is excellent as his prospective love interest Lisa Fremont, although the idea that Jimmy Stewart would reject her advances toward him is absurd. The highlight of the film is probably Stella, Jeff’s nurse. She’s played by Thelma Ritter with great energy and wit. Raymond Burr is also excellent as Lars Thorwald. He is menacing but far from the cold-blooded killer one would expect. Overall, Rear Window is one of Hitchcock’s finest efforts and deserves multiple viewings.



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