As our lives are now restricted to the perimeters of our homes, I was thinking of directors that thrive in limited spaces (Wes Anderson, Chantal Ackerman and Roman Polanski are examples); and of the ones that have actually embraced that limitation as a self-inflicted challenge. The first film that came to mind in this particular vein is Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948). It was Hitch’s first independent production, his first film in color and remains his most experimental one. In his famous interview with Francois Truffaut, Hitchcock called it “a stunt”, adding “I really don’t know how I came to indulge in it”. As perverse as the stunt may be, his adaptation of Patrick Hamilton’s stage play (inspired by the famous case of young, wealthy Chicago murderers Leopold and Loeb) remains a fascinating movie, dense with the director’s humor and unique brand of fear.
Confronted with a story entirely set in one apartment with a splendid view of Manhattan’s skylight (that studio-built cyclorama is a technical feat in itself), Hitchcock decided he wanted the action to unveil in real time, uninterrupted by cuts. To achieve the effect of that long, unique camera movement, he choreographed the actors’ and the camera’s work to perfection. Most of the walls and furniture were also almost constantly “in motion”, to accommodate the tracking shots. In order to allow for camera magazine changes, Hitchcock would focus on the same still object at the end of one reel of film and at the beginning of the next one (you’ll notice a strange obsession with dark jackets), so that the cut would look seamless. Seventy plus years after Rope, Sam Mendes played with a similar effect in 1917. Personally, I found the camera tour de force in 1917 to be distracting from the film itself. Show offish. However, I think that the technical obstacles Hitchcock created for himself in Rope actually enhance the thrill of his trademark suspense. Scroll down (below the beautiful poster of the Italian release) for the trailer. And note how it includes an outdoor scene specifically conceived by Hitchcock and that is not in the film. Enjoy Rope!
You can watch Rope on several streaming platforms, among which are Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.