Rope Film Review
By Dima Saqfalhait
“Good and evil, right and wrong were invented for the ordinary average man, the inferior man, because he needs them.”
In Rope (1948) by Alfred Hitchcock, a murder takes place within the first three minutes of the film. We know the murderers (Brandon Shaw and Philip Morgan), we know the murder weapon (a rope), and we know the person they murdered (David Kentley). It is a crime meticulously laid out to us, the audience. So, if all is figured out, what makes this film a hailed psychological crime thriller?
The murderers committed the murder for no other motive but to create the perfect crime:
“We killed for the sake of danger and for the sake of killing.”
For them, some people are deemed unworthy of living, while others are entitled for murder due to their intellectual superiority. Their friend and flatmate, David, is unfortunately deemed to be the former in their eyes: “He was the perfect victim for the perfect crime.”
The murderers, Brandon in particular who seems to be the brain behind all of this, plans, along with the murder, a party to take place in the crime scene in their Manhattan penthouse apartment. David, his father (Mr Kentley), girlfriend (Janet Walker) and friends are among the invited guests. Brandon and Philip temporarily put the body in an antique wooden chest, intending to throw it in a lake later that evening.
“He was a Harvard undergraduate.
That might be grounds for justifiable homicide.”
The housekeeper soon arrives. Brandon, being the devil advocate he is, decides to turn the chest into a dining table, instructing the housekeeper to spoil her food set up in the kitchen only to move it to the chest in the living room. The guests begin to arrive, one after the other, all wondering why their good son/boyfriend/friend David, who is always on time, is late.
Brandon, as if to test fate and accommodate to his inflated ego, invites their exceptionally intelligent teacher Rupert Cadell, to the party. Ironically, Rupert once discussed the art of murder with the boys while they were still in pre-school. He also seems to believe in the superiority/inferiority equation and its relation to murder.
Janet Walker: Well, now, you don’t really approve of murder, Rupert? If I may?
Rupert Cadell: You may… and I do. Think of the problems it would solve: unemployment, poverty, standing in line for theatre tickets…
This naturally makes Philip go crazy. He is already scared and feels like everyone can see trough him, which in itself provides Brandon with a challenge he hasn’t expected in his “perfect crime”. A weakness that threatens his exposure.
If I am to explain why the film is special, the list may go on and on. It is based on a play that is inspired by a true murder that took place in the 1920s. Being a big fan of words myself, I always, unintentionally, land on films that are based on plays. The entire film (except for the first two minutes) takes place in the same space and same time, placing such high expectations from the dialogue (which it surely delivers) to keep us hooked. Hitchcock mastered the long takes in this film, which as one may imagine, demands an incredible amount of work from the film’s cast and crew. According to the actor James Stewart (who played Rupert): “The really important thing being rehearsed here is the camera, not the actors!”
We witness the sunset in the background as the party unfolds, occasionally forgetting that there’s a dead body in the room, hadn’t it been for Brandon’s snappy comments every once in a while. The film keeps you hooked from beginning till end, offers entangled plotlines and distractions, while making the “rope” a common thread that ties it all together.
Will Brandon and Philip succeed in their perfect crime? You are to watch and find out for yourself. I am slightly disappointed with the ending, but then again I can’t think of another way I would have ended it myself.
For more film quotations and recommendations, you can follow Dima Saqfalhait’s Instagram account @cine.words