Murder Can Be An Art, Too

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Lucy Reviews Films: Rope (1948)

Director Alfred Hitchcock

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“I’ve always wished for more artistic talent. Well, murder can be an art, too. The power to kill can be just as satisfying as the power to create.” –Rope

Everyone knows that Hitchcock is one of the Greats in cinematic history. He started making films in the 1920’s and didn’t stop until he died. He made the first film to ever show a toilet (and it being flushed nonetheless), he had Salvador Dali design the sets for one of his films, he pioneered the McGuffin plot line, and he independently made one of the most iconic films of all time- Psycho. And while Psycho is indeed one of the few true cinematic masterpieces and is worthy of the praise and critical acclaim that it never ceases to get, Hitchcock’s filmography (consisting of 50+ films) there are multiple films that are impeccable but are forgotten and overshadowed by Vertigo, Psycho, and The Birds– a bittersweet situation considering all three of those films are fantastic, but there are some that are better but remain generally unseen.

One of these films is Rope. Not only is it Hitchcock’s very first film shot in color, it is also his most experimental. It’s unlike any other film made in the 1940’s- shot in long takes edited to give the illusion that the whole film is one cut, set in one room, and it’s a story about two men who just barely give off the impression that they might be gay, making this film controversial despite the fact that this rumor has never been confirmed or denied, it even got banned from a number of theaters in America because of that.

Rope is an adaptation of the stage play of the same title written by Patrick Hamilton. Hitchcock kept Rope within the confines and aesthetics of a stage play. He didn’t add or take away anything for the sake of a different format, hence the illusion of one take and the setting still being one room; other little things such as the cast having audible conversations in the background, the unusual cinematography, only seeing the set at one angle, and the background view of the city from the window being the only way to tell that time has passed.

While filming, crew members moved the walls of the set around the cameras so they could move easily and smoothly. Due to the takes lasting up to 10 minutes, the cast tried their best to not make mistakes to avoid ruining an entire scene. One actor missed the table they were trying to set their glass on and a stage hand rushed on set, off camera, and caught it. A cameraman got his foot ran over and instead of cutting the take, they were gagged and taken away from the set. Both scenes involving these incidences are in the final cut, though you cannot tell.

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Rope is the story of two young men, Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger), who strangle their classmate, David (Dick Hogan) less than an hour before the dinner party that they are hosting is to begin. They put David’s body in the chest in their living room to “add a little danger” (according to Brandon) and Brandon decides to serve the food from the chest rather than their dinner table and each guest has ties to David- one guest is his father. Phillip doesn’t wish to take things that far, but Brandon insists, and each guest unknowingly eats food off of their friend’s and relative’s grave.

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As the night progresses, Brandon and Phillip’s old professor, Rupert (James Stewart), grows more and more suspicious of their behavior. It’s his suspicion that makes the story grow more intense. It makes the exquisite ending all the more impactful. It’s his fantastic monologue in the end that causes you to really think about the content of the film. As you’re waiting for the closing credits to roll, you find yourself thinking about what Brandon and Phillip did to David.

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This film is one that you won’t forget for various reasons.

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