Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rear Window

This post was written under the assumption that you have seen Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. If you haven't seen it, there aren't too many spoilers, but you won't know what I'm talking about.

Rear Window is a beautiful movie for many reasons, but what is most often the focus of analysis and review is the mystery. The mystery provides the plot and drives the story, but it is not what the story is really about. The true meaning of the story goes deeper than that. It is about relationships, and specifically about how relationships are viewed by the main character.

The main character, L. B. Jeffries, is concerned about his own romantic relationship. He loves his girlfriend and he wants the best for her, but he is not sure they would be right for each other in the long run. He doesn’t want to give up his career, but he doesn’t want to force her to give up hers. This conflict is treated as a subplot, but it is really the driving force of the story. His inner turmoil about marriage causes him to observe the relationships of the people around him very closely, which is how he stumbles upon the murder plot.

All of the people Jeffries observes from his window represent some stage of relationships. There is “Miss Lonely Heart,” pretending to have a date, and the lonely composer, losing himself in his music and later in alcohol. Jeffries is afraid of ending up like these two, completely alone. There is also the ballerina. She is a social butterfly and seems to have people around her, but, as Lisa points out, she is as alone as any of them. This is the character Lisa identifies with, and I think Jeffries is afraid that this is what Lisa will become if he doesn’t marry her.

Then there are the representations of married life. There is a newly married couple in one of the apartments. They seem happy at first, but soon even this relationship crumbles, and the man is observed trying to relax, staring out the window, when his wife calls him from inside. And, finally, there is the murderer and his wife. This is the couple that Jeffries watches the most, because he is afraid of becoming them: the overworked, worn out man and his nagging wife. Fear is the reason he watches them so closely, possibly hoping to find some spark left of happily married life in their relationship. This is how he discovers the murder. The mystery plot doesn’t begin until about thirty minutes into the movie. Perhaps the character’s journey is the true plot and the mystery is a subplot?

Of course, there are some happy people in the courtyard as well as the sad. There is a happily single older woman, an artist. There is also one happy couple who lives directly across from him with their dog and sleep out on the balcony. These people are not the focus of the story because it is Jeffries’ story and he is more concerned with the unhappy people. He chooses not to notice the happy people because that would force him to change his mind about marriage being a bad idea.

At the end of the story, when Lisa is in danger, he realizes two things. First, he knows he cannot live without her. Her being in danger with him being unable to help sparked a protective instinct that he couldn’t ignore. Secondly, he realizes that she is more capable than he gave her credit for. She wants to be a part of his life and he needs to let her in. It is at this point that he knows he needs to stop focusing on the relationships of other people and focus on his own.

At the very end of the movie, things brighten up for every resident of the apartment complex. Miss Lonely Heart and The Lonely Composer find each other, the ballerina has someone to love after all, the happy couple across from him gets a new dog and carries on, and Jeffries decides that marriage might not be so bad after all.


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