Steven  Payne     Rear  Window  (1954)   Dir.

 Alfred  Hitchcock  



  Rear  Window  is  a  film  that  challenges  the   socially  negative  views  of  voyeurism  and   scopophilia,  from  both  the  protagonist’s  and  the   audience’s  perspective.       The  film  revolves  around  the  temporarily   wheelchair  bound  L.B.  Jeffries,  a  photographer   who’s  voyeuristic  tendencies  come  into  effect  when   he  is  struck  with  boredom  in  the  confines  of  his   apartment.  Whilst  initially  perceived  as  curiosity,   these  mannerisms  spiral  into  obsession,  specifically,   his  obsession  in  uncovering  a  murder  case  on   speculation  alone.  His  investigate  obsession  draws   attention  of  his  partner,  Lisa  Fremont,  of  which  she   sees  an  opportunity  to  relate  and  get  closer  to   Jeffries.  Fremont  essentially  acts  as  the  legs  Jeffries   is  unable  to  operate  and  eventually  she  uncovers   the  truth  by  breaking  into  the  suspect’s  apartment.     Hitchcock  creates  s  unique  world  within  the   film.  Being  restricted  to  a  view  from  a  single  view   Fig  1.  Rear  Window  Film  Poster   suggests  that  attention  to  detail  in  the  world   provided  to  the  audience  is  vital.       “Each  window  offers  a  glimpse  into  another  life  and,  in  effect,  tells  another  story”   (Schneider,  2008)     This  is  where  the  film  truly  shines.  Whilst  the  suspected  murder  is  central  point  of   focus  for  the  majority  of  the  film,  you  can’t  help  but  be  intrigued  by  the  many  individual  sub-­‐ plots  surrounding  Jeffries.       The  voyeuristic  tendencies  of  Jeffries  are  initially  were  initially  a  point  of   controversy,       “At  the  time  "Rear  Window"  was  first  released,  there  was  a  certain  amount  of  self-­‐ righteous  outrage  directed  at  the  film's  seemingly  casual  attitude  toward  voyeurism,   sometimes  called  Peeping  Tomism.”  (Canby,  1983)     Although  there  is  a  degree  of  perversion  in  Jeffries  nature,  the  real  voyeurism  comes   from  the  audience.  At  every  turn  the  audience  is  drawn  in.  Observation  is  insisted  upon  the   each  and  every  audience  member,  thanks  in  part  to  the  various  smaller  stories  occurring   around  Jeffries,  but  also  simply  because  of  the  natural  human  desire  to  watch.  Rear  Window   is  all  about  the  joy  of  observation,  and  Jeffries  is  a  perfect  example  of  how  obsessive  this   observation  can  be,  build  an  entire  career  through  photographing  the  world  around  him.     Jeffries  restriction  to  his  wheelchair  is  ultimately  a  catalyst  for  his  compulsive   observation,  but  restricted  or  not,  it  is  clear  that  he  would  be  totally  captivated  by  the   voyeuristic  thrill  regardless.  This  variety  of  captivation  could  be  compared  to  that  of  a   moviegoer.  They  are  not  simply  watching  for  an  unspecified  reason,  they  are  watching  for   the  joy  of  it.  The  passive  nature  of  observing  as  events  unfold  is  essentially  what  cinema  is.   Now  shift  to  a  scenario  where  the  same  person  is  in  a  crowd,  watching  a  fight  ensue,  and   chances  are  the  reaction  would  be  the  same.  Whilst  Jeffries  is  unable  to  leave  his  apartment,   whether  he  would  choose  to  become  part  of  the  situations  of  which  he  is  an  onlooker  is   another  thing  entirely.     “There  are  crucial  moments  in  the  film  where  he  is  clearly  required  to  act,  and  he   delays,  not  because  he  doesn't  care  what  happens,  but  because  he  forgets  he  can  be  an   active  player;  he  is  absorbed  in  a  passive  role.”  (Ebert,  2000)  

Steven  Payne    



  In  conclusion,  Rear  Window  is  a  captivating  observation  of  an  observer,  which  leads   the  audience  to  question  their  own  motivation  surrounding  voyeurism  (sordid  or  otherwise).       Bibliography   Quotes   Schneider,  Steven  Jay.  (2008).  1001  Movies  You  Must  See  Before  You  Die.  London:  Octopus   Books.     Canby,  V.  (1983)  Rear  Window-­‐  Still  a  Joy.  In:  9.10.83  [online]­‐window-­‐reflect.html  (Accessed  on   1/3/12)     Ebert,  R.  (2000)  Rear  Window.  In:  20.2.00  [online] /1023  (Accessed  on  1/3/12)     List  of  Illustrations   Fig.  1.  Rear  Window  Film  Poster  From:  Rear  Window  Directed  by:  Alfred  Hitchcock.  [film   poster]  USA:  Paramount  Pictures.    

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