Anatomy of a Scene: “Rear Window” (Alfred Hitchcock, USA 1954)

This week, Fathom events is showing Rear Window in theaters across the country. The first round was yesterday; the rest are Wednesday. It’s one of the greatest films of all time, so I suggest going, and in its honor I’m posting an edited version of a paper I wrote in my freshman year in college about the film’s climax. The paper was a close-viewing that was essentially a prototype for what my little-used “Anatomy of a Scene” series is, so I’m going to present it with few changes.

The Unarmed, Silent Standoff: On the Climax of “Rear Window” as a Battle of Truth against Evil

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 classic Rear Window may be best defined by its climactic scene of confrontation between protagonist L.B. Jeffries and antagonist Lars Thorwald. While the rest of the film is more comedic and literal that this climax, no other scene in this picture is a strong metaphor for the universal theme of the battle between truth and falsehood. Its power derives largely from the low-key lighting with a few high contrast shafts of light that draw attention to details such as the doorway and Lars Thorwald’s eyes. Hitchcock skillfully cuts short, repetitious shots; hardly allows any sound to be audible; and utilizes low-key and high contrast lighting in order to manipulate the viewer into viewing this climactic scene that acts as almost the entirety of the film’s third act as something apart from the rest of the picture and also as something more meaningful than perhaps most of the film is. Continue reading