The Master of Suspense
“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” Alfred Hitchcock said so eloquently. He was not the man of horror, mystery or sudden shock—no, Alfred Hitchcock was a man of suspense. He understood the mind and how the anticipation of something was even more fearful than the unknowing. Hitchcock, to this day, will remain one of the most phenomenal directors of all time because of his keen eye for creativity in the simplest of forms. He created art out of the “artless.” Most importantly, he created suspense from lighting, building up nerve-racking situations, and the use of his directing and filming skills. The film Rear Window is no exception to this. Hitchcock created one of the most suspenseful films in one small setting for the entirety of the film. His creativity made it possible for this film to obtain greatness. Rear Window is shot from James Stewart’s character L.B. Jeffries apartment during the whole film, and yet, Alfred Hitchcock keeps you on your toes. He does not do it by sudden shock; he merely lets you know what is coming, and the audience does the rest. When directors use sudden shock as a tactic, they give the audience now hints, and scare the audience with an abrupt “attack.” Hitchcock’s films should also not be categorized under mystery film. His films are not mysterious because he lets his audience know from the beginning what is to happen. His style does not reflect that of the “unknown.” His style is a more artistic bluntness, and that is why people loved his films so much. They were more honest. Alfred Hitchcock liked the idea of manipulating his audience by allowing them to know everything that is happening. This added to their nervous state. By knowing that someone is coming, the audience is afraid for the characters. They feel themselves trying to reach out—to warn them—about what is soon to come. Hitchcock was a master at this; he forced so many emotions out of anyone who was willing to watch his films. Rear Window makes you uncomfortable right from the start with the concept of being watched, as well as being the watcher. Hitchcock begins the film with shots of Jeffries’ neighbors in their private settings. The audience sees everything from Jeffries’ view, and it is shocking to the extent of what he sees. The neighbors are completely unaware of how much of what they are doing is being watched. The audience, at many points, puts themselves in the neighbor’s shoes and realizes how someone could be watching them and they would never know. Hitchcock makes the film eerie from the start, which genuinely sets the mood for the rest of the film. Another tactic Hitchcock uses is the vantage point of Jeffries. His apartment is set above all others, which makes it the “bird’s eye view.” This makes it less conspicuous while he is completely spying on his neighbors. Although it is immoral by society’s standards to spy on someone, Jeffries continues to do it, even when others remind him of this immorality. In multiple scenes, Jeffries tries to defend his spying. When he finally sees the suspicious acts of Thorwald, he uses it as complete justification for his actions. This first glimpse of suspicion begins when Jeffries falls asleep and is awakened by screams. He then witnesses Thorwald walking in and out of his apartment several times during the middle of the night. After these events happen, Jeffries begins spying even more, which gets him involved even more with wrongdoing. After Jeffries sees this happen, other small things he observes lead him to a suspicion that Thorwald killed his wife. Because Jeffries is cooped up in his apartment, he becomes obsessed with watching Thorwald. Hitchcock uses Jeffries obsession to capture the audience’s attention and obsession. The audience is unsure if what Jeffries is seeing is truthful or a figment of his imagination. Because of this, they watch Thorwald’s every move along with Jeffries....
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