Rope is a film I hadn’t heard of. Among the Hitchcock classics, it is apparently a cult piece as opposed to one for the general fans. Rear Window, or The Birds are much more well known today.
It’s one of Hitchcock’s more experimental films in a couple of senses. The first being that the action takes place entirely within three rooms of an apartment. Secondly, it begins with a murder on camera, which means that the audience knows from the very first moment whodunnit, wheredunnit, whydunnit and with whatdunnit (the last one is the rope of the title). Finally, the action takes place in, apparently, real time: the running time of the film supposedly coincides with the time that passes while it takes place. This last one requires a little bit of suspension of disbelief, but it can be accepted if necessary.
Unlike most experimental films, which fail because they were experimental. I would say that 95% of this movie is absolutely brilliant, and that the experimental bits are firmly in the background. The tension ramps up from the very first moment until it becomes nearly unbearable, and the philosophical underpinnings interesting, if extreme.
Then, at the very end, it all unravels. The character playing “detective” (he’s not a real detective, just an intelligent observer, and one that should have been morally ambiguous, at the very least, flips over like a roadhouse flapjack and realizes that conventional morality is correct after all.
I assume this unfortunate turn of events was caused by the strictures placed upon filmmakers by the Hays Code, but it’s hard to swallow after such a masterly buildup.
This one is interesting, but ultimately deserves its status as a forgotten film. I would recommend it to lovers of the art more than to those seeking a satisfying thriller.
Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine novelist and short story writer whose thriller Timeless has not been constrained by the Hays Code, by the bounds of good taste or even by common sense. You can check it out here.