First, before I get into my main topic, I just have to say that this film reminded me that Grace Kelly was one of the most beautiful actresses of her time. Thank you to Alfred Hitchcock for providing such wonder visions of her in “Rear Window”. Now, back to the topic at hand.
Going to the movies and watching a film is, at its very heart, a voyeuristic activity. We sit and watch other people’s lives and stories from afar framed by the screen and form opinions and cast judgements on what we are watching. Alfred Hitchcock throws that voyeurism in our faces with “Rear Window”.
“Rear Window” is a great example of what a master director with a master editor can accomplish. We watch a mostly point-of-view presentation of how a story is created in one’s mind and how that story can infect others that surround a character. We watch as L.B. Jefferies, confined to his wheelchair, becomes involved in the other lives of his neighbors as he voyeuristically watches their lives unfold, framed by the windows of their apartments.
We watch “Jeff” as he watches his neighbors and we become consumed by what he is seeing through classic A-B-A editing. A: We see him watching something. B: We cut to see what he is seeing. A: We cut back to get his reaction to what he is seeing. As the Bordwell reading stated, “the Kuleshov effect operates here: Our mind connects the two parts of space”, Jeff’s apartment and the courtyard, without the use of an establishing shot. This sequence of cuts is repeated over and over again to develop the movie-like story of his neighbors where he forms his opinions and casts judgements on what he is seeing and hearing. Given the lack of details, he fills in the gaps by coming to his own conclusions based purely on his visual input from afar. This is the Kuleshov effect on the part of Jeff himself. He connects the dots in his own mind based simply on what he sees and hears while he watches the movie of his neighbors unfold.
For me, “Rear Window” was a film of a man watching a movie of his neighbors. Each window in the courtyard presents a screen for us to voyeuristically watch as Jeff also voyeuristically watches his neighbors progress through their everyday lives and, oh yes, commits murder.