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Pasternack on the Past: 'Rope'


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By Jesse Pasternack



“Rope” is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s lesser known films. It is mostly only remembered for being Hitchcock’s first color film and for using many long, elaborately choreographed shots. But this tightly structured and well-acted film remains more than just something for movie lovers to know for trivia night.

“Rope” tells the story of two roommates, Brandon and Phillip. They murder an old friend named David in their New York City apartment out of the belief that they are superior to him.

Afterward, Brandon and Phillip host a dinner party for David’s family and friends. Things go well until their old teacher starts to sense that something is wrong.

This movie is often cited as an excellent example of the “long take.” A long take is a shot in a film that goes on for a noticeably long time.

There are static long takes, such as one from “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” But more often than not, the camera moves around during a long take, like most of the shots in “Birdman.”

The long takes in “Rope” are very well designed. The camera effortlessly tracks with the characters for great distances. The shifting positions of the actors and the camera create interesting new shot compositions that are fascinating to watch.

These well-choreographed camera movements aren’t just for show. The length of the takes makes the viewer share in Brandon and Phillip’s anxiety. The suspense of whether Brandon and Phillip will be caught is amplified by the suspense of when the filmmakers will use a conventional cut. This makes “Rope,” which Hitchcock once referred to as a stunt, a good reflection of the practical principle that form should reflect content.

“Rope” is a very efficient film. It thoroughly tells its main story and several subplots in just 80 minutes. It is a great demonstration of the economy that Hitchcock brought to his filmmaking.

This movie is dark, but it also features some humorous moments. Brandon in particular has a lot of darkly comedic lines about the situation he has helped create.

The general atmosphere of wealth and wit makes it feel like a macabre episode of “Frasier.”

The performances in “Rope” are excellent. John Dall has a lot of fun as the gleefully unhinged 
Brandon.

James Stewart’s performance as the teacher investigating Phillip and Brandon gets better with every minute.

“Rope” is outstanding from a technical point of view. The witty dialogue and exceptional performances help make it more than an experiment in shot length.

More importantly, its 80-minute length makes it perfect to watch before studying for finals.

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