Film Review - Rope (1948)

figure. 1 Movie Poster

Alfred Hitchcock's Rope features long scenes and an extremely sensitive script using metaphors to compare to the unthinkable. A psychological thriller with strong characters to act in favor of a lack of typical action seen in a thriller. The psychological aspects of Hitchcock's Rope brings out guilt and charm from the duo of Brandon and Phillip. An experiment of "format" with less emphasis on action and more on careful word-play.

figure, 2 Brandon & Phillip hiding David in the Chest
Brandon's charm and deceiving nature swoons the guests of the ill-timed party whilst Phillip stresses constantly. So much of Rope is focused on the subtleties from the choice of words to the gradual tone-change throughout the 80 minute-long film. The homosexual undertone between Brandon and Phillip played by John Dall and Farley Granger, Rope uses moral concepts of superiority and inferiority in a Cluedo style film with a satisfying conclusion leaving no unanswered questions. Described as having an "oddly dreamlike quality" (Clark, n.d.) the suspense of Rope comes from the use of metaphors to almost perfectly describe the scenario of murder that Brandon and Phillip had committed. Phillip becomes increasingly scared and sensitive to mentions of strangulation of chickens or Rupert Cadell's philosophical talk of murder being a form of Art. - Meanwhile Brandon becomes more and more tantalized with the notion of someone catching onto his crime and uses his charm and sociopath-like nature to both hint at what he had done and at the same time sway them from impossibility of the idea.

As Hitchcock uses Rope as an experiment to test the genre of a psychological thriller he substitutes blood, gore and violence for carefully chosen words and  facial expressions. Phillip's constantly contorting face gets consistently more worried and Brandon's more obnoxious. "His camera stands back and takes them in, singles them out on occasion and even moves in now and then for close looks." (Crowther, 1948) The film is shot entirely in one room, each scene being longer than five minutes very similar to An Inspector Calls by J.B Priestley(1945-onward) and it's one setting, script-emphasized direction. This technique was cleverly broken up by Hitchcock but becomes more obvious when the camera zooms into the back of any suited Man and zooms out again. Though whilst it is obvious it highlights and emphasizes the film's focus on the assertiveness of Brandon, Rupert and Phillip. It could be said that because of the direction of this film (comparatively to An Inspector Calls) it is less of a film and more of a play.
figure 3. Guests and Rupert standing over the Chest.
Rope, whilst a subtle film builds large amounts of tension because of how it deals with the reality of what has happened. "the emphasis on the macabre in this small story is frightfully intense" (Crowther, 1948) Using metaphors of strangling chickens, or "cut a throat week" to seemingly obliviously create a link and flashback to the murder of David. - The constant unveiling of something hidden. In the chest we know David's body is hidden and as the audience aware it's there. - But the guests of this odd party with champagne have not a clue regardless of what they might say to stir our suspense further. Rope often ventures out of the "psychological thriller" genre many a time due to the fact as an audience we are already aware of the who,what,where and when. - But the cast does not. Similar to when you go and see a Broadway show.. The audience calls out "He did it!" whilst the actor on stage plays dumb to the shouts and warnings. The only difference here however, is that we have no connection to the party-goers in the apartment overlooking Manhattan.  - With that, comes suspense.

It is certainly an experiment that from a pure film-aspect could not work so well due to straying far from that of a usual thriller film. There is no "thrill" in the way off jump-cuts, sudden reveals or even mystery to be unveiled in the first place, but it acts morally as a psychological film, borderline show, to encompass a strong ending that due to the suspense makes you wonder if in the end sequence with Brandon, Phillip and Rupert something spontaneous will happen and the addition of a gun only adds to this...

figure 4. The Metronome acting as a pace changer for the film.
However overall, whilst considered failed by his own standards, Hitchcock has managed to create a film that should be at the least admired for it's outstanding delicate handling of it's script and careful pacing that adds to the dim, but overall suspense of Rope. Hitchcock used the metronome, a piece of rope and a gun all as timing-based devices to add to the characters and ultimately Phillip's anxiety over his co-committed crime. It's a film that should be judged outside of it's supposed genre to be appreciated rather than slated for not fitting into a template of films that had come before.



Clark, G. (n.d.). Rope Review (1948). [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Jan. 2015].
Crowther, B. (1948). 'Rope': An Exercise in Suspense Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Jan. 2015].
Crowther, B. (1948). 'Rope': An Exercise in Suspense Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. [online] Available at: [Accessed 24 Jan. 2015].

Illustration List

Hitchcock, A. (1948). Brandon & Phillip hiding David in the Chest. [image] Available at: [Accessed 24 Jan. 2015].
Hitchcock, A. (1948). Guests and Rupert standing over the Chest.. [image] Available at: [Accessed 24 Jan. 2015].
Hitchcock, A. (1948). Movie Poster. [image] Available at: [Accessed 24 Jan. 2015].
Hitchcock, A. (1948). The Metronome acting as a pace changer for the film.. [image] Available at: [Accessed 24 Jan. 2015].

Further reading: (FYI)
An Inspector Calls:

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