By Michael Kalafatis (Stoke on Trent)
Brandon: “I’ve always wished for more artistic talent. Well, murder can be an art too. The power to kill can be just as satisfying as the power to create.”
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Starring James Stewart, John Dall, Farley Ganger, Douglas Dick, Joan Chandler and Sir Cendric Hardwicke. Two self-proclaimed intellectuals Brandon (John Dall) and Philip (Farley Ganger) host a dinner party, the guest invited to the dinner party includes David Kentley, his father Mr Kentley (Sir Cendric Hardwicke), his aunt Mrs Atwater, his fiancée Janet (Joan Chandler), his former best friend Kenneth (Douglas Dick) and Rupert Cadell (James Stewart) who was a prep school headmaster in the same school that Brandon, Philip, Kenneth and David attended. But the guest are unaware that the wooden chest in the living where food will be served hides the body of the unfortunate David who Philip and Brandon murdered prior to the diner party. As a way to show their intellectual superiority as David has only done an undergraduate degree and they hid him in the chest because like most work of arts it needs an audience to be appreciated.
The central theme in Rope is the intellectual concepts of the inferior and superior beings and Brandon and Philips have decided that belong to the latter, because they are well educated and intelligent so they can kill anyone one who is inferior just like they did with David without any retribution. This notion belongs to Rupert Cadell whom Brandon admires tremendously and he even stutters when he first talks to him at the dinner party, a good example of this topic is when Janet asks Rupert, “Now, you don’t really approve of murder, Rupert, if I may.
Rupert: You may, and I do. Think of the problem it would solve-unemployment, poverty, standing in line for theatre tickets.
Mrs Atwater: But we’d all be murdering each other.
Rupert: Oh no. Oh no. After all, murder is, or should be, an art…… As such, the privilege of committing it should be reserved for those few who are really superior individuals.
Brandon: And the victims – Inferior beings whose lives are unimportant anyway.
Rupert: Obviously. Now mind you, I don’t hold with extremist who feel there should be open season for murder all year around. No, personally, I would prefer to have… “Cut a Throat Week” or “Strangulation Day”.”
The distinction between Rupert and Brandon is that Rupert will never kill anyone who thinks he is inferior as we have seen in the above dialogue , he merely suggest this notion because it is quite interesting topic of discussion even though Mr. Kentley dislike the “morbid humour” of Rupert and adamantly objects to it, on the other hand Brandon he is so engrossed with this notion that he has murdered one of his friend for sport and he invited everyone who is closely related to the victim to demonstrate his supremacy and to display his “work of art”.
Rope is Alfred Hitchcock first film in Technicolor and takes place in real time while employing the technique of a single continuous take through the use of long takes. So from the technical point Rope is one of the most experimental films that Hitchcock has ever done in his prolific career and even though it is evident that the film does not take place in real time (the film is 80 minutes but the events in the film are more closely to 100-120 minutes) and it does not use a single continuous take but rather uses long takes that last 7 to 9 minutes. But these techniques are the reasons that makes Rope engrossing, as it manages to makes us feel like one of the guest of the dinner party, and in a twisted we feel like accomplices to the murder of David as we witness his death together with Brandon and Philip but no one else knows about it.
James Stewart is superb as Rupert Cadell and he gives a certain gravitas to the character but the characters that draw most of the attention are Brandon and Philip whom Hitchcock subtly implies that are having a same-sex relationship which at that time it did not go down well with a lot viewer who were unfamiliar with seeing homosexual characters taking an integral part in a mainstream film. Hitchcock’s decision to film Rope in long takes makes the film feel like a stage play but because the camera does not stay static and it moves very often in a brilliant choreographed ethereal way making Rope easier to enjoy and not dull at all for a film that takes place in one location.