Rear Window (1954) – Review by Andrea Carnevali

Rear Window ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A wheelchair-bound photographer spies on his neighbours from his Greenwich Village courtyard apartment window and, despite the skepticism of his fashion-model girlfriend, becomes convinced one of them has committed murder.

Chiswick Cinema is holding a special screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film on Tuesday 14 May for Andrea’s Film Club.

Whenever people talk about perfect films, this is the one that comes to mind, over and over again.

Rear Window is not just my favourite film by Alfred Hitchcock, but actually it’s up there among my favourite films ever made.

Where to start? There are books and books written about this masterpiece and I feel a bit stupid just sitting down here, telling everyone how great this film is.

Technically of course is pure perfection: from the way it’s filmed, (camera positions, camera moves, camera lenses), to the spectacular set design (so large and high that no film studio could contain it, so they had to dig down into the ground), to the multi-layered soundtrack (virtually no composed music throughout, all incidental as if it’s heard from across the courtyard, something very usual for the time) and obviously the powerful editing which makes the most of the juxtaposition of Jimmy Stewart’s reactions and what he’s seeing, as well as the multiple layers and incredibly detailed sound editing, which not only adds to the story, but makes silence one of its most powerful tools.

This is the work of a true master, completely at ease with his film-making techniques, putting the audience in the shoes of our heroes, adding humour, tension, sexuality, mystery to the mix as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

And it’s not just Alfred Hitchcock of course. His cast here is pure gold too!

Jimmy Stewart to start with, the so-called “everyday man”, who is impossible not to like, even if here he plays a bit of an ass. He’s stuck in a wheelchair with a broken leg and yet he manages to convey all sorts of emotions from curiosity to boredom, from frustration to obsession, from love to fear, just with his face, mostly half hidden behind a photo camera.

And don’t even get me started on the most beautiful woman ever to appear on film. Grace Kelly is the epitome perfection as far as I’m concerned: classy, beautiful, clever, fearless, funny. I just adore her, and this is possibly the film that made me fall in love with her, over and over and over again.

Thelma Ritter, who plays Stella, brings so much humour and energy and makes her character unforgettable despite being such a tiny role.

I love everything about Rear Window: it’s an intriguing mystery and an exciting thriller, of course, but it’s also an astute portrait of relationships. All different types of them and all played out inside those little apartments across the courtyard.

The script is wonderfully clever too (apparently Hitchcock worked on at least half of it, but was never credited) especially in the way the dialogue plays over the visuals, but it’s through James Steward’s reactions to what we see that we learn more about his character’s inner thoughts, than we would if there were pages and pages of dialogue (or worse, voice over!).

Today Rear Window is still just as impressive, just as funny, just as smart, just as exciting, just a tense. A film which truly deserves to be named a masterpiece.

I had the pleasure of showing to my son for the first time just a few months ago. Despite its slow start, by the end he too was gripped to the couch, tense as a violin cord, screaming at Grace Kelly across the screen to be careful.

70 years and this masterpiece still has the power to thrill and enchant us.

I cannot wait to show this film and talk about it, for my next film club at The Chiswick Cinema on Tuesday 14 May at 8pm.

Book tickets: Chiswick Cinema Film Club

Andrea Carnevali is a Bafta winning film maker who lives in Chiswick, and a co-creator of the Chiswick In Film festival.

See all Andrea’s film reviews here: Film reviews by Andrea Carnevali

Chiswick In Film festival: Chiswick In Film festival 2023

See all the latest stories: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

Support The Chiswick Calendar

The Chiswick Calendar CIC is a community resource. Please support us by buying us the equivalent of a monthly cup of coffee (or more, if you insist). Click here to support us.

We publish a weekly newsletter and update the website with local news and information daily. We are editorially independent.

To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, go here.