Thursday, 26 January 2017

Rope - Film Review

fig.1 film poster

Rope’ is a 1948 American film, directed by the "master of suspense", Alfred Hitchcock. Despite having negative reviews at the time of its release ‘Rope’ has been recognised as a significant film, being one of the first major films to replicate the use of a single take.

The film revolves around two characters, Brandon Shaw and Phillip Morgan, who have committed what they believed to be the perfect crime. The story follows the two as they try to ensure that no one knows about the murder that has taken place in their home. Eventually the two are caught, the body in the room discovered and authorities closing in on the building, it is clear there is no escape.

As a result of being based upon Patrick Hamilton’s 1929 play under the same name the film retains a number of components. Including the fact that the film draws inspiration from the real life murder committed by Leopold and Loeb. Using a twisted logic the two thought with their “superior” intellect they could commit the perfect crime which made the headlines of many of the newspapers in America.

Because of this the film was not shown in all states due to how recent the murders have been. This would have been preferred by Hitchcock as he referred to ‘Rope’ as a “failed experiment”. The unique feature of this film, the single shot, allows for a different take in film. Recording in a “single” shot gives a more theatrical feel adding towards the sense of a play. However it can be argued that the single take has not been used to its full potentials. Never the less ‘Rope’ has been regarded as "one of the most interesting experiments ever attempted by a major director working with big box-office names” (Ebert, R. 2008).

With Hitchcock’s biggest strength being suspense it is no surprise that the film revolves around this element. In this scenario it is the evasion of the killers from being caught that creates the tension. On occasion an event would arise alarming the audience adding to the effect. Hitchcock himself has implied that by giving information to the audience a film can give suspense; while the lack of knowledge may create fear in men the right amount can create tension.

The film from the very start has been written with this in mind. By starting from the murder the information is already presented in front of the viewers with the killing already underway. The next important piece of information presented by Hitchcock is the location of the body.

By imitating a single take the film provides a strong template for providing knowledge, essential to Hitchcock he also takes great care in ensuring that the information is easily accessible to the viewer. This is evidenced by the way the actors and the camera interact with the scene in order to draw attention towards certain objects or actions. A clear example of this is when Brandon Shaw, one of the murderers, twists a revolver at an unnatural angle revealing the loaded chamber. This alone draws focus onto both the character’s conviction to kill and capacity to kill increasing the stakes. Without even committing the act of killing the audience’s attention has been captured and from this point on the tension is kept high all though giving information. The audience’s attention is taken in “the only way to uncover the truth is to keep watching” (Hutchinson, P. 2012). To assist in this the camera focuses in on the object of interest insuring that the viewer knows what to take in.

fig.2 loaded gun is presented to the audience

“Murder in the movies is usually more about motive than consequence. The bad guys have it coming, and killers are much more interesting before they start repenting their crimes. But Rope rejects that formula by taking inspiration from a real-life murder, a particularly cold-hearted one, and rubbernecking on its aftermath.” (Hutchinson, P. 2012)

 One interesting factor that has carried on from the play is the psychological reason that has driven the act of murder. The concept of a higher being draws focus upon real life situations where the same moral has driven heinous acts. Throughout the film we can see the two rationales represented through the two murderers as one represents the moral compass, the other a cold guilt-free ideal. Altogether Hitchcock’s ‘Rope’ uses a number of devices in an experimental method to portray tension and suspense while also questioning the mortality of taking another one’s life.


Ebert, R. (1984) 'Rope' Available at: (accessed 26/01/2017)

Hutchinson, P. (2012) 'My favourite Hitchcock: Rope' Available at: (accessed 26/01/2017)

Bosley, C. (1948) 'THE SCREEN IN REVIEW; ' Rope,' an Exercise in Suspense Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Is New Bill at the Globe' Available at: (accessed 26/01/2017)

Illustration list

fig.1 Rope film poster (accessed 26/01/2017)
fig.2 Rope. (1948) directed by Alfried Hitchcock []

1 comment:

  1. Well thought through review, Alex :)

    Make sure that you follow up on statements like this though... expand on 'why' it can be argued etc.
    'However it can be argued that the single take has not been used to its full potentials'.

    Don't forget to italicise the quotes and the film names :)