Often referred to as the “Original” thriller, Rear Window was one of the earliest films of the thriller genre and helped define it.
Usually, if we look at popular thrillers of today’s day and age, we see a lot of fast-paced, high-intensity action scenes, mainly with violence throughout the entire feature. This is far different from the simplicity of Rear Window.
Alfred Hitchcock, the director and writer, puts us in an apartment with the main character (Jeff), who is recently injured and spends his recovery days sitting in his wheelchair, looking out of his vastly large window and watching all of his neighbours.
Each apartment he observes becomes its own little storyline. The idea of this film is built up on people watching; every single shot is filmed (or feels like it is filmed) from inside Jeff’s apartment. This creates a unique way of storytelling; we are confined to the apartment as Jeff is and observe these strangers as he is. Seeing all the different people living in their own worlds really shows the unique lives different people can have. We are given small, detailed elements throughout the story that add suspense over time, ultimately bringing you onto your edge during the very last stint of the film. For example, the simple fact of Jeff being in a wheelchair makes him vulnerable.
Although this doesn’t seem to be a big impactful detail in the beginning, in the end, it is responsible for bringing the film’s intensity to its height. Something quite magical I found about the film’s production was, along with filming every shot from this looking-out-the-window perspective, the production design.
Back in the 1950s, films were made using real gigantic scenes with massive structures in sound stages. All of the apartment windows and buildings were built for this film, and it was all real, with very little to no green screens or visual effects. Another famous example of these magnificent scenes that were built in sound stages is Singin’ In The Rain.
With many films now, technology has enabled more use of green screens, visual effects and background extension, but I still enjoy watching these older films that were created with earlier, less advanced technology.
I can’t help but relate themes in this 1954 film to life in today’s society. Throughout the film, you’re never sure if Jeff’s conclusions on the character of all these strangers are true because how much can you really be sure about a stranger just from observing them from another building? This theme is very impactful today with social media. It’s as if social media is our rear window into the world of others, drawing our own conclusions about people based on how we observe them online.