Alfred Hitchcock has repeatedly been touted over decades as “the master of suspense”. After leisurely conveying character development in the initial stages of his films, we are undoubtedly drawn into their worlds after growing to care about them. Careful cinematography and witty dialogue then set the stage for a multitude of suspenseful acts, which stirs a great deal of emotions including fear, anger, hopelessness, and shock. The classic 1954 film “Rear Window” is no exception. The claustrophobic and restricted settings in this film only serve to enhance our restlessness and anxiety, as well as concern for the beloved actors in the lead roles.
L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries, played by the incomparable and relatable James Stewart, is a photographer living in New York City who has broken his leg due to a workplace injury. He is confined to a wheelchair and thus his apartment, spectating the neighbours through his “rear window”. He gazes upon the diverse yet mundane lives of many of his neighbours secondary to his lack of social and physical activity. On one of his voyeuristic expeditions, he believes that he may have witnessed a murder and becomes obsessed with solving it. His fashionable and intelligent girlfriend, Lisa Fremont (the iconic Grace Kelly), and his nurse, Stella (the hilarious Thelma Ritter), become as equally absorbed as Jeff in this pseudo-investigation. As bystanders, our enthrallment and distance from the actual happenings of the film creates intense discomfort and simultaneous curiosity.
The old adage “a person’s eyes is a window to their soul” refers to unspoken truths that others interpret through our self-perceived hidden expressions. Conversely, I feel that a window could be seen as eyes peering into the souls of others. Referring to our main character’s occupation, photography can beautifully capture raw emotion for eternity. There is a broad scope, depth, and evolution to our daily lives, yet haphazard viewing of our mannerisms may lead to either correct or incorrect elucidation of our realities. This concurrent sense of connection and detachment can lead the viewers/voyeurs to be judgmental of others, which could create suspicion and fear. It is through conversation and approachability that we are able to truly understand and appreciate others’ struggles and joys. Passive scrutiny can therefore be bypassed when we exit through doors and stop peering through windows.
I do not own the above image.