Movie Review : Rear Window

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While several of his works dwell considerably on voyeurism, Hitchcock’s 1954 film Rear Window addresses it most directly. Not only does the film comment explicitly on ‘rear window ethics’, it also forces audiences to identify with the characters who violate them. No character in Rear Window is morally clean, and through several cinematic techniques, Hitchcock compels viewers to sympathize with nearly all of them. More than anything, Rear Window is a film about the audience’s complicity with ethically imperfect characters and their ethically imperfect behavior. This is particularly evident in two climactic scenes. The first scene creates a close identification with L.B. Jefferies, the main character and principal voyeur
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This serves to frame the murder mystery plot and distinguish it from the numerous personal developments and narratives experienced by the other neighbors.
Looking beyond its narrative function, the use of binoculars is a morally problematic development in Jefferies’s voyeuristic project. This is acknowledged by the film itself. As Stam and Pearson note, Stella criticizes Jefferies as a ‘Peeping Tom’ and “‘window shopper’, and […] refers to Jefferies’s telephoto lens as a ‘portable keyhole’”. Inherently, the lenses represent a more potent and intentional violation of privacy than merely gazing out of the window. But despite the film’s self-conscious critique of voyeurism, Jefferies continues to utilize his lenses as a tool for his spying, and the audience continues to share his point of view. The technique forces upon the audience complicity in Jefferies’ voyeurism, and it can often evoke discomfort, especially when the lens’s gaze is focused on a private or intimate moment. It is also worth noting that Hitchcock relies on the framing technique to evoke discomfort in his other films. For example, in his 1960 film Psycho, Hitchcock employs the round framing technique to force the audience to identify with the murderer Norman Bates. As Norman looks through a hidden peephole at his victim as she undresses, the
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