Every director, no matter whether famous or not, should have made at least one experimental movie. Hitchcock has Rope, a movie even he was a bit ashamed to put on the big screens for some time. It’s probably safe to say that this is one of a very few attempts that ‘didn’t work out’ in his long and marvelous career in filmmaking. However, its remarkable unconventionality in the sense of play-like editing technique and the way its storyline is build should be sufficient enough to make it worth a view.
The story starts with a brutal scene, which may be considered a spoiler that in result kills all the suspense and mystery. However, throughout the whole story only the viewer knows what happened, so that the effect of a spoiler accounts only for the outcome, but doesn’t relate to the events that occur in-between.
Two homosexual students (John Dall and Farley Granger) fascinated by the nature of a ‘superior being’ strangle (with the titular rope) their friend, who they think is worse than they are, and put his body in a grand trunk in the middle of a room, where they later throw a party for a few guests. One of them is their professor Rupert Cadell (James Stewart).
Not knowing that a corpse is in the same room all the time, everybody is trying to have a good time. However, they are wondering why David, the killed boy, isn’t here yet and the overly mistrustful professor begins to suspect that something strange is going on. Phillip, one of the boys, starts to crack up a little. There is one fantastic scene, where Rupert is questioning Phillip, while he plays the piano. With every next question he seems tenser and plays along faster than before. Yet Brandon, on the other hand, is in control of the situation and enjoys the whole set-up like it was some kind of a pleasurable game. He uses intelligent word play to talk a bit about David’s absence. Then it all goes out of control, as Phillip isn’t able to take the pressure any more and starts to think that everyone already knows of the gruesome murder that the boys committed.
I’ve always been amazed by Hitchcock’s ability to render the element of suspense in such a jaw-dropping manner, that even when the viewer is fully aware that the dead body is lying in the piano for the whole time, he is still feeling the mysterious aura and experiences it along with the characters.
Due to the fact that Hitchcock wanted to make it look like a real time play he had to shoot it in 10 few-minutes-long sequences and put them together, so that the whole movie would look like a one long shot. Unfortunately, this experiment didn’t work out as well as it was supposed to, and the movie wasn’t able to generate much attention in the process.
Alhough even James Stewart wasn’t very fond of the movie himself, I still think that everyone, who wants to know the true Hitchcock, has to watch Rope. It doesn’t loose any of the director’s mastery of suspense and mysterious atmosphere, and definitely provides for a thrilling ride without leaving a single room.