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  Rear Window

rating: (out of 4 stars)

United States; 1954
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock; produced by Alfred Hitchcock; written by John Michael Hayes
Starring James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter, Raymond Burr, Judith Evelyn

Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rear Window' belongs to the director's best, and therefore to the greatest films ever made. Personally I think only 'Vertigo' is better, but they are close to equally great. 'Rear Window' is filmed almost entirely from the point of view of Jeff (James Stewart), a photographer who is temporarily with one leg in a cast. Therefore, from his small appartement, he has nothing else to do than watch his neighbors.

Hitchcock introduces all characters Jeff sees in one shot, peeking inside every room across the yard. We know what Jeff knows and we get to know them as he does. We see a lonely woman who practices dates on her own, a girl who dances all day and has dates with multiple men on the same time, some newly-weds making love all day, a couple sleeping on the balcony since it is so hot, and a couple where strange things seem to happen. So thinks Jeff and we agree with him.

After a fight the woman has disappeared and the man acts strange; he must have murdered her. We see the man (Raymond Burr) doing suspicious things, although none of them would be considered suspicious in other circumstances. A lot of people clean knives, carry suitcases, leave and return in the middle of the night. But together with Jeff, we are suspicious as well. From time to time his girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) comes over, as does Stella (Thelma Ritter) who takes care of him since he has broken his leg. Both are skeptical at first, but Jeff slowly knows to convince them as well.

We might forget that Jeff is not doing a very decent thing here . It is voyeurism in its purest form and Hitchcock forces us to watch along. Maybe Jeff is solving a crime, but we can't be sure. If the suspicious thing, if that is what they are, would not have happened we might see Jeff as a pervert directly watching at other peoples lives. The way Hitchcock makes us almost forget this is the brilliant touch from the master of suspense. He keeps us distracted from that fact, although Stella sometimes reminds Jeff and us.

Another character, Tom Doyle (Wendell Corey), a friend of Jeff who happens to be a detective, also reminds us, but both begin to believe Jeff bit by bit. Doyle is a useful character here. He is a detective so he can find out little things that keep the plot moving. Although Doyle is not very convinced, Jeff finds new suspicious material in every little thing Doyle is telling him, and again, we strangely agree with him. Stewart and his everyday appearance contribute majorly to this, but we only realize after the film has finished.

'Rear Window' is as effective as a thriller can be, working better than almost every thriller made today. Knowing as much as the leading character does often results in a film that cheats in one way or another, but Hitchcock plays it honest. Everyday-man Jimmy Stewart is perfect for this kind of material and especially Ritter does a good job as well. All Kelly has to do is looking gorgeous and act worried and of course she succeeds in that. Over fifty years after its original release 'Rear Window' is still the perfect example of how to tell a suspenseful film. Hitchcock keeps reminding us he truly is one of the greatest directors ever to make a film.

  Review by Reinier Verhoef