A man with a broken leg in a wheelchair has nothing to do but sit and stare at his apartment courtyard from his Rear Window.
After breaking his leg while photographing a race, LB “Jeff” Jefferies (James Stewart) is wheelchair bound with his only way to pass the time is to see what his neighbors are up to by looking out his window. In the shared courtyard there are several characters, a pretty young ballet dancer, a woman with a dog, a woman that sunbathes, a newlywed couple, a desperate woman seeking a mate, a struggling pianist, and a salesman named Thorwald (Raymond Burr) with a bedridden wife. When Jeff suspects Thorwald of killing his wife, he gets his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) and detective Doyle (Wendell Corey) involved in his theory.
Rear Window is my favorite Hitchcock film. Period. Sure, there are others that come close, films that I enjoy quite a bit but there are a few factors that make Rear Window something extra special to me. First and foremost is the setting; an apartment courtyard in New York City is fantastic and intimate and the camera is almost always pointing out from Jeff’s apartment. This truly gives us a sense of what he is seeing and we feel confined to a wheelchair along with him. Secondly, the tension of what is really happening. We don’t know for sure if Thorwald really killed his wife, at first it seems like Jeff is bored and looking for drama when there is none. Third, and arguably the most important, is Grace Kelly.
So much is accomplished with so little in Rear Window that it’s almost deceptive. We have a supporting cast of characters, as viewed through Jeff’s window and we learn about them just by watching them. We don’t know much about them personally, we only see small slices of their lives and yet we can piece together so much from them. Even Jeff’s initial accident isn’t talked about, it is shown via a sweep of his apartment and the story unfolds through photographs he has taken. I can’t think of any other film that has done more to inform the viewer in such a simple, logical way than Rear Window.
While I still have a long way to go before making a large dent in Hitchcock’s extensive catalog, I have yet to one of his films that fires on all cylinders the way that Rear Window does. I would be hard-pressed to find fault with it, though the same could be said for many of Hitch’s films. Rear Window is perfect in its simplicity and I cannot sing its praises enough.
I give it 5 time-lapse courtyard videos out of 5.