Alfred Hitchcock, known fairly well for his innovative techniques based in thriller genres, specializes in the act of suspense and keeping his audience on their toes. However, in one of his more understated films, he attempts to pioneer the technique of one, continuous film, implementing as little editing as possible. This film is his 1948 film 'Rope' (Fig 1), starring John Dall as Brandon Shaw and Farley Granger as Phillip Morgan, the two primary characters (Fig 2). Due to the film's tried strategy of shooting a full length movie in around 9 edits, it did poorly at the box office due to being so separated from the norm of other
The film takes place among guests in a middle-class booze party, essentially putting the audience among the guests themselves to watch the events unwrap in real-time, starting with the murder in the beginning. Alfred uses this to excellent effect as his type of suspense doesn't withhold information until the last moment. Instead, it gives us it right from the very start so we know what the suspense is building up to. Each moment in the film the audience is anticipating the hidden body's reveal, but that suspension is watered down each time any sequence is close to the discovery by the guest's socialising.
The feeling of discord and complexity is a constant presence within the movie, particularly when the dialogue of the characters overlaps. Perhaps this is to build on the representation of the minds of the two murderers and how they dig themselves further into their own guilt-ridden grave, mixed feelings overlapping.
This is also represented by a certain scene in which one of the murderers, the nervous and squirely Morgan, plays the piano as one of the guests, Rupert Cadell, played by James Stewart, questions him about his recent nervous outburst regarding a memory of his youth about strangling chickens, a concept similar to how they murdered their victim in the start of the film. The metronome ticks faster and faster as the interrogation progresses and as Morgan's nerves get the better of him, he begins to play more frantically while he shifts to a minor key.
Rope specializes in elongated and drawn-out shots, particularly when dealing with the chest that conceals the body which the film revolves around. The house maid, Mrs. Wilson, played by Edith Evanson, walks back and forth between rooms from the living room, through the hall and all the way to the kitchen for at least three full minutes as she clears away the chest, cleverly disguised as a table used to serve snacks during the cocktail party (Fig 3). If we had cut away from the view of the chest in this scene, any of the guests could be poking about it. Again, Muir considers this clearly in his review: “Again, if you cut away -- if you aren't keeping track of the terrain -- any character could have been fiddling with the chest all along, and we - the audience - wouldn't necessarily see it or know it. This way, Hitchcock's way, every character seems to orbit that coffin, but the sanctity of it is never violated. Not until the end of the picture.” (Muir, 2008)