How does Alfred Hitchcock Shape Audience Expectations in the Opening Scenes of Rear Window? Essay Sample
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Prior to watching Rear Window, the expectations the audience would have would be that the film was going to be a combination of romance, comedy and thriller. This is because all of his Hitchcock’s films have been in that style. The opening credits shape the audience’s expectations in the following ways; as the credits are rolling, the blinds are going up on the window. This gives a kind of theatrical impression.
kind of theatrical impression. The music is light and cheerful, reminding the audience that there is going to be romance and comedy in the film, but then ‘Alfred Hitchcock’ flashes up on the screen, reminding the audience of his style, therefore suggesting the film is also going to be a thriller. Out of the window, you can see the scene for the film. It is set in the city, and it is realistic, so it is going to be set at the present time (when the film was made).
The opening scene gives the audience a sense of location by looking out the window around at the other windows. The camera keeps zooming in at certain places, suggesting thriller as it is like spying. Also, the title of the film flashes up quickly, suggesting thriller. The film introduces the central character of Jeffries by showing a close-up of him. He is in a full-leg cast, showing that he is immobile. He is sweating, showing the heat and that he is uncomfortable. Hitchcock introduces the plot strands of mystery and romance through various visual and verbal clues. Around the room, there are pictures of high action scenes, showing that he is used to action and danger. This suggests that there is going to be some action and danger later on in the film. The clue that there is going to be a romantic side to the story is when the camera zooms in on a picture of Lisa, showing that Jeffries has some feelings for her.
As the story continues Hitchcock continues to shape the audience’s expectations in the following ways. We learn a lot about Jeffries through the phone conversation. He describes his cast as a ‘cocoon’. This suggests to the audience that he is going to transform in someway, like a caterpillar into a butterfly, and now he is the caterpillar in the cocoon, so by the end of the film he will have become the butterfly. In the conversation he mentions Lisa. He says that she’s nice “but she expects me to marry her”. This shows that he does not want to get married. He also says; “In my neighbourhood they [wives] nag”. This shows that he has a stereotype image of what he thinks a wife is. He has a very negative view on marriage, and believes that they are all bad.
This shapes the audiences expectations by suggesting that his views will ‘transform’ by the end of the film. This is also hinted when we are introduced to the newly married couple, as it is suggesting that it is reflecting what Jeffries actually wants, even though he has not admitted it to himself. Also in the phone conversation, Jeffries says; “If you don’t get me out of here I’m going to do something drastic”. This hints to the audience that something drastic is going to happen later in the film. After the phone conversation, he has an itch inside his cast, so had to use a spoon to get at it. This is used to show that some of the film is going to be comic, and it is used a relief from the expectation of action. However, it also emphasises the disability that Jeffries has, and shows how immobile and vulnerable he is.
When Thorwald (the suspected murderer) is introduced, the audience is encouraged to dislike him. He is shown arguing with his wife, and the scene looks like she is asking him why he is late. He just shouts at her and walks out of the room. This hints to the audience that there is going to be tension further on in the film. He is then shown in the garden and when the sculptor offers a suggestion to him is very rude and tells her to go away. This shows that he is unpleasant and shapes the audience’s expectations by making him seem more capable of committing a murder.
When the audience is introduced to Miss Lonelyhearts, she is pretending to have dinner with someone. The makes the audience think that she must be very lonely, and the atmosphere is very private. The audience is encouraged to disapprove of Jeffries watching people as they feel that he is intruding on a very private scene that nobody should be seeing, and Miss Lonelyhearts would be very upset if she thought someone else had watched her. However, he carries on watching. This shapes the audience’s expectations of him that he is quite selfish and nosy, and does not find it wrong to be intruding into someone else’s business.
When the audience is introduced to Stella, Hitchcock shapes the audiences expectations of what is going to happen using verbal hints. Her reaction to what Jeffries is doing is one of warning. She calls him a ‘peeping tom’. This is another suggestion that what Jeffries is doing is wrong and intrusive. She comments how she foresaw a market crash. She tries to turn it into comedy by saying that she knew a company manager’s toilet problems were going to affect everyone. She says she can predict trouble, and she thinks there is going to be some soon, as people who look out of windows see things they shouldn’t, and get into a lot of trouble with no excuse. In this way, Hitchcock shapes the audiences expectation that something is going to happen because Jeffries will see something he shouldn’t out of the window. Also, it suggests to the audience that Jeffries can see other people’s problems, but cannot see his own.
Throughout the scene, the audience is shown that Jeffries is used to action and exciting events, and he has already said that he may do something drastic. This suggests to the audience that he wants something exciting to happen so he may create an exciting event in his mind due to his boredom and sudden dramatic change in lifestyle; from the best photographer in town to someone confined to a wheelchair by a window.
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