Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Movie Review: Rope (1948)
A gutsy experiment in film-making and a conversation-opener about the controversial art of murder, Alfred Hitchcock's Rope sparkles with wit and technique.
Phillip is immediately wracked by guilt, but Brandon is very much enjoying himself, convinced that he has committed the perfect murder and emboldened by his twisted interpretation of the philosophical argument that murder can be justified when superior men choose inferior victims to kill. The dinner guests are clueless as to David's whereabouts, except for Rupert. His sharp observations of Brandon's words and actions lead him to believe that something is very wrong, and he starts to probe Brandon and Phillip to find out what happened to David, and why.
Rope opens midway through the only act of violence, and the movie is thereafter a battle of wits and willpower between Brandon and everyone else. Brandon has to overcome Phillip's guilt, the mounting anxiety of David's family and friends, and Rupert's creeping suspicion that something untoward has taken place.
The majesty of Rope's story arc is Brandon's supreme pride in having committed the perfect murder to satisfy his arrogance, undermined by his narcissistic inability to control his desire to tell the world about it. Brandon drops hints early to Kenneth that he now has less competition for Janet's attention, and throughout the evening he flaunts his misdeed, starting with congregating the party around the chest with David's body in it, and going as far as using the murder rope to tie books together for David's dad.
And in a journey to the contradictory destination where ruinous confession mixes with aggrandized boastfulness seeking validation for murder, Rupert feels compelled to invite Rupert to the party, knowing full well that Rupert is the only one capable of seeing through Brandon and deciphering what happened to David.
James Stewart creates in Rupert a more assured character than his typical screen persona. Rupert is observant, inquisitive, confident, and aware of the dangers associated with the arrogance of youth. His foe is his mentee, Brandon seeking to confirm his self-perceived superiority by impressing the main father figure in his life. John Dall oozes a nauseating confidence as Brandon, a man so full of himself that he leaves no space for considering the emotions of anyone else.
An exploration of a psyche damaged by excessive hubris, Rope is a chillingly taut experience.
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