Rear Window (1954) is without a doubt Alfred Hitchcock’s way of expressing “pure cinema,” meaning film at its peak. He was always working with the mise-en-scenic structure of art and filmmaking. It is considered one of the benchmarks of his career. Based on the short story by crime writer, Cornell Woolrich, entitled “It Had to Be Murder,” the plot follows a photographer (a poignant way of expressing the story and cinematographic his techniques) confined in his apartment, seeing through his “rear window” suspects that murder has been taken place in another apartment. The situtation becomes dangerous to be heavily involved with. Of course, changes were made to Hitchcock’s adaptation, such as the ending, the replacement of caretakers, and a romantic love interest with the main character.
However, what makes Rear Window faithful to the original work was the overall theme of voyeurism. Both Hitchcock and Woolrich follow the idea that people are practically all “peeping toms.” This puts in context, the idea of giving our own perspective to what we are able to see and assume, it is a conflicting issue of how we deal with spying. The film is a way of analyzing other people’s private lives and knowing their secrets. In common sense, we, both the viewer and reader, become confined as well to this one apartment, so we instantly become the observer. It tries to twist our aptitude. Hitchcock plays with the audience not seeing everything that involves the murder plot, so it creates the suspense and rural imagery that we have come to suspect. Woolrich does the same quite well.
Another way that makes the film essential to the original work was the environment itself. The protagonist’s apartment becomes the entity that we see. In the original story, it does take place in apartment complexes, but it does not give off the little play-lets (sub-dramas) or the sub-arcs that involve the tenants in the other apartment windows that can be seen in the film. In fact, Hitchcock enhances this usage by giving the impression of natural apartment life, especially with the diegetic sound such as planes going by, the busy street, and people shouting. We are able to see distinctive private lives of all these tenants.
I think one of the reasons for adding a female character, a romantic interest, was probably a balance for a target audience, possible brand names, or the fact that there is a female blond in all of Hitchcock’s films. Whatever it may have been, it worked. Grace Kelly in Rear Window plays the entrancing, alluring beauty of the female character that you cannot possibly lay a finger on. Another Hitchcock trademark is how he plays with sex in a robust way without really interpreting it in terms of dialogue. These tactics really broke the limits of American filmmaking and became a way of tackling with real lives. In fact, the film version deals with relationships both love and aspiration.
Rear Window is a master film that worked so well going back to its original form by Cornell Woolich. Hitchcock, being fond of criminal novels and short acts, wanted this to be on his plate. Rear Window works extremely prominent in a cinematic structure of telling a story. Both the film and short story are something to view more than once. It definitely confronts our way of dealing with scopophilia like the protagonist does, but either way, we are drawn into these characters.