Before Hitchcock became a world-famous director, he was an art director and a set designer. As a result of these experiences, he made huge effort in the design of the set of Rear Window. The set of design in Rear Window can be defined as theatrical, showing only few sets: Jeff’s apartment, the courtyard, the complex building, and the tightly street from Jeff’s apartment view. Essentially, all of them have no connection but Hitchcock used the cinematic technology to connect Jeff’s story and his neighbor. Besides the cinematic technology, Jeff’s neurotic or psychotic behavior connects the neighbor in the story of the movie. There are two kinds of narrations – Jeff and Hitchcock. The narrative story is about Jeff and Hitchcock points of view and perspective of the neighbor. In some level, it means the reflection of Jeff’s feeling and the exploration of the relationship between omniscient (Hitchcock) and subjective (Jeff) narrators. From Rear Window, both of the narrators (i.e. Hitchcock and Jeff) reflects Jeff psychological conditions such as anxiety because of career and marriage from the neighbor’s life through the cinematic technology such as camera movement, framing and editing.
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The sequence from 2:25-3:32 shows Jeff’s anxiety, ambivalence and desire mainly about his career through the camera cuts to various windows of neighbor. The sequence starts when Jeff is sleeping; therefore the camera movement is Hitchcock’s prospective. Compare to Jeff’s point of view shots in the movie, the camera movement of Hitchcock narration is more mobile. Jeff’s narration is shot reaction shot, it reflects his immobility because of his broken leg. On the other hand, Hitchcock as omniscient narrator narrates through the camera movement to engage us in the cause and effect logic to assemble Jeff’s story and background; so the audience can understand why Jeff attempted to do later of the films. Hitchcock simply introduced Jeff’s neighbor to the audience around the courtyard. Actually he is telling the story of Jeff to the audience. First, the camera cuts to the studio of songwriter who turned off the radio. He turns it off because the announcer’s question struck the songwriter’s anxiety. At the same time, the question about the marriage of Lisa causes anxiety to Jeff. He doubts if he is not the right man for Lisa. The photos in her apartment showed that he loves freedom and adventure. More importantly, he is not as rich as Lisa. Therefore he cannot provide the quality of that Lisa is used to be. He is no longer young and he doesn’t have a studio. Both of them evade their problems. The songwriter turns off the radio because he doesn’t want to face his problem. He thinks there is no way to solve the problem. At the same time, Jeff has no confidence on taking care Lisa as a photographer. It is one of the reasons why he refused Lisa’s engagement later.
Miss Torso showed when the camera continues to pan left after the songwriter, and the childless couples. It is a long shot of her dancing practice in the apartment. The camera focused on her leg that reflected Jeff’s desire of physical freedom and his broken leg. He is forced to be immobile; therefore he cannot pursue his goal. He worries about being able to renew his artistic abilities as a photographer after his recovery. Jeff admires the dancer because of the huge efforts she exerted while dancing. He also wants to practice as hard as the dancer. As a photographer, it is shame that he can’t take photo in front of the attractive girl; therefore he chose to voyeur.
Furthermore, the attractive dancer holds the attention of both Jeff and audiences. In many cases, female characters are the visual pleasure of males in many Hollywood movies. Voyeurism in Rear Window is largely a masculine activity. Jeff understands that unlike the relationship, there is no responsibility after his voyeur. He would rather watch Miss Torso than touch the women next to him. It shows how he tries to escape the marriage and the love of Lisa. Also, Rear Window exposed the psychological obsession of the society. Besides that, Laura Mulvey intensively analyzed the serious voyeurism of Jeff and even Hitchcock in her article called The Oppositional Gaze where she reveals that when Lisa across to the salesman apartment from Jeff apartment, their relationship changed dramatically. It is the first time he uses the lens to voyeur Lisa in distant which is comparable to his voyeurism to Miss Torso. Nevertheless, Mulvey claims that voyeurism is a positive practice. She borrowed Freud’s idea to describe that the audience projects the repressed desire to the female or female character through the point of view editing and identifying the spectator. Most part of the movie are in Jeff’s and Hitchcock’s point of view. It completely clarifies how the unconscious patriarchal society constructed much of the events in the film.
According to Woolrich, the movie is all about women and violence. The scholar Anthony J. Mazzella claims that “Apart from the murder victim, the mistress, the forerunner of Miss Lonelyhearts, and the newlywed wife, there are no major women characters in the story. There is no Miss Torsoâ€¦ no Lisa Carol Fremont.” (63) The role of women play in the movie is for the male gaze and satisfying the audience’s voyeurism. Mazzella informs that in the movie, Mrs. Thorwald was chopped and scattered in the East River. On the other hand, Mr. Thorwald buried her whole body apartment building. The story of film is more attractive to the audience when Jeff’s story links with more violence, women then Woolrich’s story only links to violence.
The next camera sees the children playing, dancing and laughing around the street- cleaning truck wherein the children can cool off by the spray of the truck. Hitchcock is telling through this shot that Jeff is longing. Jeff wants to be like the children who can cool off by the truck in the hot and moist weather. The function of this shot is a wish- an expression of Jeff’s desire. Jeff is forced at home already six weeks. He looks like the bird in the cage which showed in the camera before moving back into Jeff’s apartment and bringing the prospective from Hitchcock to Jeff. These images function like a mirror to project desires and fears from Jeff’s psyche
After Hitchcock’s prospective of Jeff’s feeling, it is point to another scene of Jeff. Now, it is Jeff’s turn to tell his psyche about marriage to the audience reflect from his neighbor. In the dialogue with the visiting nurse, Stella; Jeff stated again that Lisa would not be able to adapt his adventurous life, but the truth is that he is afraid that he cannot adapt himself to her needs since he is the exact opposite in her love of fashion, comfort and wealth. It reflected on the newlyweds on the left. Although Jeff feels good about the marriage from the newlyweds in the first time; he slowly realized that the young wife’s sexual demands increases and the husband find it difficult to satisfy. In this movie, most of the female characters such as the young wife, Mrs. Thorwald, Miss Lonelyhearts and Lisa rely on the male and asking something from man. The young wife increasing sexual demands, Mrs. Thorwald’s constant need for attention from Mr. Thorwald, Miss Lonelyhearts’s desire of love, and Lisa’s desire of stable marriage are showed and threatened Jeff.
In the point of view editing links Jeff and the Thorwalds during the phone conversation with Gunnison, his editor at the magazine. It is the first time in the movie that the dialogue and the visual action coincide. As they talk off- screen about marriage, the camera shows Mr. Thorwald and Mrs. Thorwald are arguing. The bad marriage and estrangement relationship also shows in the decoration of the Thorwalds’ apartment. They occupy separate rooms- Mr. Thorwald, the living room; Mrs. Thorwald, the bedroom. Additionally, the colors of the walls of these rooms are different wherein Mrs. Thorwald’s bedroom was painted in a cool color while Mr. Thorwald’s living room is painted with warm color. It means Mrs. Thorwald feels suffering and depressing on the invalid and the disloyalty of herhusband. Although Mr. Thorwald suffers the nagging from his wife, he has a mistress; therefore, the color is in warm tone. In Jeff’s perception of the Thorwalds’ marriage is a kind of prison or like a bird trapped inside the cage. Jeff and Thorwalds are denied of the freedom to move. It refers not only his present immobility of his broken leg but also to his possible marriage to Lisa.
The mirroring of shots of dinner with Lisa is more complex than the conversation between Jeff and Gunnison. The dinner shot was built around a pattern of alternation from story- space to story- space or from Jeff as “actor” to Jeff as “spectator”. The editing here is same as other point of view shots to establish Jeff’s voyeuristic interest in his neighbor. As Lisa prepares dinner for Jeff, Jeff watches Miss Lonelyhearts and links the implicit similarity between her and Lisa who are preparing dinner for a man who is not really here for them. Furthermore when Lisa begins to set the table for dinner, Jeff also looks at Thorwalds who is having dinner. Jeff and Mrs. Thorwald have the implicit similarity which they rebuffed their partner’s dinner preparing. It shows the relationship of Jeff and Lisa is as worst as the Thorwalds. The Thorwalds’ marriage made Jeff not to believe in marriage. He doesn’t want his marriage look be the same as the Thorwalds; therefore, he denied it to Lisa. Jeff identifies himself and Mr. Thorwald as unstable men. Jeff likes to take adventure to seek the art and Mr. Thorwald just wants to fool around.
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Hitchcock’s great achievement in the period of his career was showed by Rear Window. Through the narration of Hitchcock and Jeff, the audience realizes Jeff’s changing. Before, he likes to put himself in risk and adventure as showed in the photos in the apartment. Jeff develops the narration of Hitchcock by his investigation of the murder case. Finally, Jeff paid the cost of voyeur which his two legs are broken. He decides not voyeur and sleep peacefully. In the final shot about the neighbor is the newlywed wife nagging the husband by Hitchcock’s narration. It tells us although the Thorwalds’ story is end (the new point cover over the bloodstained wall), the problems in marriage does not end and seems to be a repetition of situation between the Thorwalds. These different narrative voices produced a layered narration. Hitchcock provides different mediating agencies to tell story which audience can classify the narrators between omniscient (Hitchcock) and subjective (Jeff). Work Cited
Raubicheck, Walter., and Srebnick Walter, ed. Hitchcock’s Rereleased Films. Detroit:
Wayne State University Press, 1991. Print.
Mulvey, Laura. Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Oxford University Press, 1975.
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