A while ago, I wrote an article about the many similarities and differences between All About Eve (1950) and Sunset Boulevard (1950). It wasn’t really a comparison piece per se, just a post about two of my favorite movies, which happen to be quite often associated with one another for a number of reasons. And that got me thinking. A lot of movies often go hand-in-hand in movie buffs’ minds, and I thought it would be a nice idea to write a series of posts about that. I meant to start this a lot sooner – I wrote the Eve/Sunset piece about a year ago -, but now I have finally decided to follow through with it. So, here it is, the first instalment of my DOUBLE BILL series of posts: Rear Window (1954) and Vertigo (1958). For the record, this is not meant to start a war. These are just the thoughts of a movie buff.
Rear Window and Vertigo are two of The Master’s greatest and most beloved movies. Not to mention that they are arguably the two best Hitch/Jimmy Stewart movies of the four they made together. And because it’s Hitchcock, they share a lot of the same themes and motifs. You know, the usual ones. Suspense, mystery, icy blondes, perfect shots, you name it. However, there’s more to them than just that.
In both Rear Window and Vertigo, obsession leads to trouble. Although you can argue that both of them deal with very different types of obsession. In Rear Window, Jimmy Stewart is obsessed with watching his neighbours. This leads to him finding out something he shouldn’t have found out. In Vertigo, he’s obsessed with the memory of Madeleine (Kim Novak). His obsession makes him do… well, obsessive things. However, in Rear Window, Jeff’s obsession is due to boredom at having to stay at home – the whole thing might just be a metaphor for his relationship with Lisa (Grace Kelly), depending on how you want to look at it and how deep you think it might be. In Vertigo, his obsession is psychotic. It’s deeper. And sicker. Vertigo is like the culmination of every Hitchcock movie and every theme ever used in every Hitchcock movie. And it is definitely the darker one of the two. Rear Window, however, has always been my favorite. But I will agree that, objectively, Vertigo might be the better movie. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s the greatest movie ever made, like Sight&Sound did, but it is perhaps Hitchcock’s masterpiece (if you can pick just one!). Vertigo messes with your head and when it finally clears it all up for you, it delivers the ultimate comeuppance. It’s an incredibly satisfying resolution. On the other hand, the scene with Jeff and Thorwald (Raymond Burr) in Rear Window is one of the most thrilling scenes of all time. When Thorwald looks up at Jeff when he sees that Lisa is wearing his wife’s ring, you know it’s on. You know it’s going to be awesome. That whole scene in Jeff’s apartment is the reason why Alfred Hitchcock is called the Master of Suspense. No matter how many times you watch it, it’s always unbelievably exciting.
There are so many overlapping, intertwining themes in both of them, all drenched in metaphors, that one could analyze them forever. As I’m sure movie buffs will continue to do ’til the end of time.