August 29, 1948 [Rope]

Almost twenty-five years after Leopold and Loeb exerted their Nietzschean anti-morality on Bobby Franks, one of the few “trials of the century” still fascinates.

--But in Rope such a trial is not to be, no screaming headlines, no Clarence Darrow pleas--just Hitchcock observing them in a closed and continuous space--his camera never leaving the room, following them without pause, as the day moves on outside the big window toward dark. This is the trial: to listen to them and see them so unrelentingly we begin to hope for their escape. It is the cruelest Hitchcock yet, soiling us for simply taking a seat and watching his movie.

Hitchcock hints at Leopold and Loeb’s homosexuality--particularly in Farley Granger’s passivity, his hesitation to see himself as the villain--and when he does, to feel the kind of shame we expect of him, not simply for the murder, but for the other secret, the one stored inside his body--the one they tell only to each other; and anyone who knows is automatically an accomplice or an enemy. And of course the smiling one, John Dall’s Brandon, enjoying both secrets, eager to keep more.

Poor Farley Granger: He seems the little boy here, the victim--and poor James Stewart as Rupert, their professor, who must splutter his indignation because Brandon had listened too carefully to his lectures. Rupert’s error was that he assumed his listeners possessed consciences. Hitchcock shows what happens when moral ciphers are given free rein, even in an increasingly cramped apartment.

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