06 November 2011

Seeing Everything by Seeing Nothing - Rear Window

L.B. Jefferies (James Stewart) in Rear Window developed the habit of looking through the windows of his neighbors after he broke his leg getting an amazing photograph of a racecar accident.  What he does not realize, but perhaps we the audience can appreciate, is that he is watching not just the lives of the people accross the courtyard but a carefully crafted movie, edited with precision.

We watch a movie about L.B. Jefferies while he watches a movie from the point of view of L.B. Jefferies.  Shots of him are intercut with shots from L.B.'s point of view.  While our story is carefully edited in continuity style his jumps around.  L.B. edits the story as he falls asleep, has a conversation, averts his attention to his bombshell girlfriend, or is blocked out by a pulled shade.

What happens behind the newlyweds shades during the ellipsis where L.B. cannot see them? The film need not show us, nor could it ever show us any better than the closed shade could. The scene was set and Hitchcock quietly cut away. The images in our mind are far more intimate, passionate, or intense then anything Hitchcock could have filmed.

Likewise, what happens when the light goes out on Thorwald? Why should a gruesome murder be shown when the darkness tells a far more gruesome tale.  Why a blood stained bathroom when a quick shot of a man wiping down a wall is so much more terrifying?

The entire film takes place, technically, only in L.B. Jefferies' apartment.  We can see only what he sees from his rear window but in our minds we see the most expensive sets, the most brilliant acting, all because the film is edited so we see really nothing at all.  We are taken to the east river, to the train station, to Thorwald's blood stained bathroom. all Hitchcock had to do was show us a man with a knife, a suitcase, a nagging wife, and a dark window.

No comments: