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Review of Rear Window (1954)

So far this year, Rear Window is the first film I've given a full 10/10 rating. Even though my rating system may be nondescript among others, a sort of a wave in pitch darkness, to me it is the best realized. It's not too flashy, not too complicated; short, simple and to the very point. Now, Rear Window is an arrestingly fascinating film. The follows an invalid, a photographer, peeping into the windows of his neighbors. What starts off as an innocent time-pass graduates into an obsession, and finally to the point of insanity. It's one of those one-setting films and emphasizes a-lot on psychological under-and-over tones, with symbolism and metaphors. Jeff, the protagonist, sees through his window to the others' windows and observes their different lives, all the while ignoring his own. This is a metaphor for cinema / screen itself. Behind every window there's a story; behind every reel there's a story waiting to be seen. Jeff is not a character, but us, the audience. His "television" or "cinema" screen(s) is / are the windows, just as the movie is our window to a story. His expressions and actions mirror that of ours. The more the film progresses, the more his "glance" becomes ugly and one-minded. At the climax when Miss Lonelyhearts is contemplating suicide, Jeff nonchalantly ignores her and instead focuses solely on Mr. Thorwald; thus reducing Miss Lonelyhearts to a shadow, a blurry background. It pretty much correlates our determination to know the truth and not get distracted by anything else. To sum it all up, we're pretty much spying on a security guard by a CCTV camera who is in turn watching others by several CCTV cameras on several screens - at once!

Jeff and Lisa Fremont are the complete antithesis of Mrs. Thorwald and Mr. Thorwald - the two important pairs in the film. In the former, the male is an invalid - he is confined, for most of the film, in one corner, due to an accident that leaves his left leg severely fractured. In the case of the latter, Mrs. Thorwald is the invalid - always sick and always nagging. Simultaneously, Rear Window plays on the theme of masculinity and femininity, and how each is both vulnerable and immune.

All the windows, apart from Jeff's own, represent the screen in which you're watching the film in, be that the TV screen, your iPad, your Samsung Galaxy. As you see none of the characters interact with Jeff, and, almost consciously, never seem to gaze in his direction. It's as if Jeff's not there, just as you are not there. I mean, movie characters don't interact with the audience, do they? Jeff's obsession with his neighbors - "characters" - and his increasing distance with Lisa - "audience" - is pointed out several times in the film. It is not only when Lisa goes into the Thorwald residence does she receive care and love from Jeff, because as far as the movie is concerned, Lisa becomes a character, an object to care about. Till then she was only an embodiment of a female persona. Once she enters the window, she literally jumps into a "movie" - a metaphor - and this triggers a reaction from Jeff. When Lisa points out the late Mrs. Thorwald's ring to Jeff - who had spying, as before, with his camera lens - Mr. Thorwald, who was standing next to her, looks up and gazes at Jeff and realizes that someone had been watching him the whole time. When he looks up, he is searchingly, and almost cruelly, looking at us. He kinda breaks the fourth wall by hinting at our inhuman desire to see the murdered wife, so see our morbid wish come true. He cannot believe that, and he personifies the stunned face of the film.

Caught in the act, Jeff switches off all the lights in his apartment and waits in the shadows for Mr. Thorwald to appear. Here the roles have reversed. The character from the movie has come to reality and is demanding answers. From the point where Mr. Thorwald appears in the room to where he pushes Jeff out of the window, the "eye" of the audience, that is to say the person from which we're seeing the film through, shifts from Jeff to Mr. Thorwald. Now Jeff has become a part of the spectacle, a part of a place where only the inhabitants of it can see him. When he is pushed from his window, every resident appears before him, finally recognizing him as "one of their own". The frequent use of the flashbulb to blind Mr. Thorwald could be a metaphor to blind us from the real truth.

Since the windows and their inhabitants also act as metaphorical mirrors to Jeff and Lisa, it can be almost safe to assume that the supposed "happy ending montage" of all the inhabitants could serve as a symbolic future of Jeff and Lisa. When the sexy Miss Torso opens her door, in comes a boyish army soldier, her true love. He utters that he's hungry; just as how Jeff utters when Lisa is first introduced. Also, he's back from war, and very early in the film we get to see that Jeff has taken several war photographs. There could be something there. Miss Lonelyhearts finds love in the Music Man. This could stand in for the lost love and love right under the noses - both of which describe Jeff and Lisa. The newly-wed couple, shown as happy and loving, are displayed to be arguing and the wife is heard saying something her husband losing his job. Also notice that none of the residents seem to have kids; or at least no kids are shown in visible frames. The above two could very well be symbolic to the potential future of the pair; Jeff, having now two broken legs, could for all we know remain that way for the rest of his life, rendering him impotent - alluding to no kids - and could very well be jobless - alluding to the bickering new couple. Also, the ending is not as happy as it seems. Lisa is seen reading a foreign travel book, but as soon as Jeff falls asleep, she picks up a fashion magazine, hinting at dark corners.

Remember, this is a nutshell-analysis, and was written for the sake of something to write on this movie. You can easily find hundreds of in-depth movie and character analysis scattered all over the internet. But before you go on reading about them, watch the film at least once, whether you're able to pick up the subtle clues or not.

From the performances, Grace Kelley, James Stewart, and Thelma Ritter (as Stella, Jeff's nurse) were outstanding in their respective characters. There's really not too much to say here except that all three gave realistic, standing ovation performances. Raymond Burr, too, was equally imposing as Lars Thorwald.

In conclusion, Rear Window is easily one of the finest movies ever made, and hands-down one of the few contenders of the number 1 greatest film ever made. In my book the number 1 spot is filled, but I think this film can settle down nicely in the number 2 spot. Hmm, now where should I place The Godfather now?

Added by Happy Vader
5 years ago on 17 June 2013 23:18