On ‘Rope’: How Hitchcock Kept His Long Take Movie Suspenseful

Here's how Hitch keeps us at the end of our rope ... with suspense!
Rope Hitchcock

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay examining how Alfred Hitchcock approaches long takes.

Far be it from us to disagree with a filmmaker as prolific as Alfred Hitchcock. But life is short. And if the oft-repeated (and seldom sourced) factoid that the director considered Rope a “failed experiment” is true, we will have to disagree respectfully.

Released in 1948 — one year after The Paradine Case and two years after Notorious — tells of two upper-class Manhattan socialites, Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger), who set about committing the “perfect” murder. After strangling their college buddy David with the titular murder weapon, they stuff their lifeless associate’s corpse into a chest and proceed to throw a dinner party before the deceased’s blood can cool. David’s parents, his fiancé, and the boys’ beloved schoolteacher (Jimmy Stewart) are in attendance. As the night wears on, Brandon’s confidence and conviction that they will be praised for their cunning and superiority begins to tip off their observant teacher. On the other end of the spectrum, Philip’s anxiety has begun to peak through their façade, threatening to give the boys up before the night is through.

Rather famously, Rope is constructed to feel as though it was filmed in a single take (in reality, there are 10 shots, 11 if you count the opening credits). Superficially, this choice can feel like (a) creative experimentation on Hitchcock’s part and/or (b) a way of preserving the spirit of Patrick Hamilton’s play (itself based on the real-life murder case of Leopold and Loeb).

But, as the video essay below succinctly points out, Rope’s “single shot” effect is more than just a gimmick — it’s a compelling vessel for Hitch’s calling card: suspense. So, without further ado, here’s a look at how Hitchcock suffused Rope with nervous energy, tension, and dramatic irony:

Beware visual spoilers for ‘Rope,’ a film the uninitiated should go watch as it is very, very good.

Watch “Alfred Hitchcock’s Long Takes”:

Who made this?

This video essay on how Alfred Hitchcock conjured suspense out of long takes in Rope was created by StudioBinder. This production management software creator also happens to produce wildly informative video essays. They tend to focus on the mechanics of filmmaking itself, from staging to pitches and directorial techniques. You can check out their YouTube account here.

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