Hitchcock’s Rear Window is a sight to behold, not only because of its distinct characters that drive the story, but because of its unique concept and creative visuals— you can’t help but artistically appreciate it. Characters are able to prove themselves,rising tension is fulfilled with confrontation, and the twists and turns dangle just close enough to keep you reaching.
“Here lie the broken bones of L.B. Jefferies,” is a fair and quite humorous opening to this story. We are introduced to Jeff, a famous photographer, who has broken his leg and is left to sit around all day, watching out his “rear window.” From this, he literally sees a window into each of his neighbors’ lives, observing their antics and squabbles. We understand more about who Jefferies is through his dialogue with his nurse, Stella. Even though he’s getting older, he refuses to settle down— meaning marriage is not something he’s interested in. This is news to Lisa (or Lee), Jeff’s ever-so-elegant love interest who, yes, wants to marry him. The movie really gets going when Jeff is suspicious of one of his neighbors, a middle-aged husband, of murdering his wife. Is it Jeff’s boredom and imagination running wild? Did this husband, Mr. Thorwald, really muster up the guts (not literally) to murder his own wife?
This movie shows Hitchcock’s ability for creating spectacle, mystery, and even horror smacked in the middle of the most mundane circumstances. A man staring out a window, looking at buildings in a courtyard isn’t a movie, but for Hitchcock, it was a start. Add some character motivation (Jeff’s love of adventure and Lisa’s desire to prove her capability) and sprinkle some suspense (whether his neighbor is a murderer or not) and boom, a Hitchcockian masterpiece is born.
This is one of those movies that might be better on a second viewing, at least that’s how it was for me. The first time, I was so caught up in the mystery that I wasn’t able to appreciate certain character dynamics or significant plot points. On the second watch, I was blown away by the unique juiciness of its bones and the tenderness of its meat (the characters’ reasoning and motivations, as well as the natural movement of the plot, representing the bones, and the creative external storylines and elements that one could only have in a courtyard of windows, representing the meat). It is quite the delectable film.
Hitchcock used the windows to create mini storylines, much like how back in their day TV was revolutionizing entertainment and providing viewers with a variety of stories from the comfort of their home. As time has passed and technology has grown, every person with a computer in their pocket has a window into millions of lives and millions of stories. So, Hitchcock’s point of how society watches others through windows has only become more relevant.