Seventy Years Later, ‘Rear Window’ Still Brings Lessons About Life in Society

Released almost 70 years ago, the classic Alfred Hitchcock Indiscreet window (1954) continues to inspire new works of fiction. The feature served as the basis for bestselling and attention-grabbing movies, such as: The woman at the window† the girl on the train and, more recently, Kimic in Steven Soderberghanext to the recent series of Netflix The Woman in the House Across the Street from Girl in the Window† It’s no coincidence. Indiscreet window reflects the personal and social anxietylost connection and the uncertainty at the heart of contemporary lifewhich have only increased since the mid-fifties and over the course of the pandemic of coronavirus

The basic storyline of the film, and the other works of fiction inspired by it, is this: someone – disturbed or otherwise upset – is trapped in a confined space, obsessed with looking outside, and witnessing an act of violence. The main character has to figure out what to do while trying to determine if what he saw outside is real. The task is complicated by the character’s problems with intimate relationships and social interactions. The public then discovers that the observer is also being watched and that danger has entered from outside. After the invasion there is again some sense of order and tranquility. But ultimately there is no lasting sense of security or comfort.

in ‘s movie Hitchcockthis story takes the form of a murder mystery in which the romantic relationshipbut fleeting, under Jefferies (Jimmy Stewart) and Lisa (Grace Kelly), who gradually come together to investigate the mystery. The film is a penetrating sociological study that vividly portrays what the post-war sociologist David Riesman aptly called ‘the lonely crowd’. In their 1950 book of that title, Riesman and his collaborators Nathan Glazer and Reuel Denney observed how today’s society has become atomized, increasingly characterized by people living among themselves but separated from each other.

From the opening scene of Indiscreet windowFrom the panoramic view of Jefferies’ residential complex to the many scenes revealing what he sees through his window, the film focuses on the apartments of its aptly named neighbors, presented as compartmentalized spaces – separate units with sharp edges and well-preserved. In the film, these divided spaces diminish any sense of community and compassion. As Jefferies looks out the window and stares at the windows—and the lives—on the other side, he mocks the people he sees, giving them impersonal names like Miss Torso and Miss Lonelyhearts, tracking their actions, and plotting for them. to come up with.

Hitchcock carefully constructed the film set to look like a… different TV or movie screens, noting that the lives of the people Jefferies observes should be viewed as curiosities, not concerns. At a key moment in the film, when a dog is mysteriously killed, that alienation begins to unravel. The dog’s owner delivers a passionate lecture berating his neighbors for their lack of concern and meaningful contact with each other, while Jefferies and Lisa listen intently. This series echoed a common complaint from city dwellers in the 1950s – that they were generally not neighbors, but too segregated and self-centered to care “whether someone lives or dies”.

It was also a mysterious premonition that heralded the extended commentary on a much more serious real-life event that took place ten years later. The reported indifference of their neighbors during the assault and murder The 1964 portrait of Catherine “Kitty” Genovese in front of her Queens building has become a disturbing emblem of big city life and the residents’ callous indifference to others – even if later evidence has disproved this story.

1954, Indiscreet window presented a strong critique of impartial observation, but he also imagined a kind of engaged observation of others, useful and even necessary. Jefferies may seem like a spy to Tom at the beginning of the film, but his obsessive observation ultimately contributes to solving a murder. In this way, the film anticipated the “eyes on the street” argument presented in a 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities† In it, author and activist Jane Jacobs argued that when everyone looked at each other, neighborhoods were kept safe and connected.

In the film it is Lisa who leads the transition from remote observation to protective and from separation to active involvement. She leaves Jefferies’ apartment, until then just an observatory, to break into the apartment of the man suspected of murdering the dog, who was targeted when he accidentally came close to exhuming traces of a crime. She discovers evidence that helps track down a murder and catch the killer.