There were many great directors during the 19th century era of film, but one renowned filmmaker of that time was Alfred Hitchcock, who “is among the few directors whose films almost constitute a genre unto themselves, the suspense-filled “Hitchcock thriller” ‘ (2 Dixon & Foster 102). In his career, Hitchcock directed many films from the late 1920s to the early 1970s, before dying in the 1980s (1 Biography. com Editors 1). His first feature film, in Hollywood, was Rebecca (1939), and then he went on to direct some other fantastic films such as, Rear Window (1954), “Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964)” (1 Biography. om Editors).
Hitchcock was well-known for his suspenseful, scary, and dark films, but one theme that was introduced into a couple of his films was voyeurism, which is the “the secret viewing of another person in a place where that person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy,… ” (3 Duhaime 1). In these voyeuristic films one of the characters, most likely the protagonist of the film, surveyed the setting and observed people, without them knowing it.
One of Hitchcock’s film, Rear Window (1954), was a perfect example of this because the protagonist, L. B Jefferies, was wheelchair bound from an accident, and he was obsessed with watching his neighbors out of his rear window. Rear Window (1954) was distributed by Paramount Studios, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and starred actors James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, and Thelma Ritter. In the film, the protagonist, L. B Jefferies, played by James Steward, was an exphotographer, who broke his leg after an accident at a race track. He was confined to a wheelchair, so he distracted himself by looking out his rear window of his New York apartment to observe his neighbors.
The leading lady of this film was Grace Kelly, who played Lisa Fremont, the rich, extravagant, and high fashioned fiance of Jefferies. Wendell Corey played Detective Thomas Doyle, who was the detective in charge of the murder case in this film, while Thelma Ritter played Stella, the nurse, who took care of Jefferies. The minor characters in this film were the neighbors that Jefferies looks at through his window. Some of them include: Ross, the musician, Miss Torso, the young dancer, Lars Thorwald and his irritating wife, the lonely lady who drinks a lot, the couple who sleep outside with their dog, and the newlyweds.
Throughout this film, Jefferies, the voyeur, watched the world of his neighbors through his camera lens and binoculars. This was a great and interesting film, and the audience had the ability to conclude whether or not Jefferies was too obsessed with watching his neighbors, and they could make their own opinion on how far Jefferies could go, before he got too inappropriate. The setting of Rear Window (1954) was set in New York City in an apartment complex.
I enjoyed the start of the film because it was very well done, in which the camera panned over the entire apartment complex, and looked into each room, which set up the characterization of each neighbor. There was a young dancer, a newly married couple, a couple who fought a lot, a couple who slept outside on their porch with their dog, a pianist, a lonely, unmarried woman, and a sunbather. After panning the neighborhood, the camera introduced the audience to L. B. Jefferies, the main character, who was a photographer, but was out of work because he broke his leg, and was now in a wheelchair.
The audience observed that every day Jefferies watched the neighbors out his window obsessively, from morning to night, and nobody knew he was watching. One important night, he noticed that Lars Thorwald had left his house three times in the middle of night, he had cleaned a large knife, and Thorwald’s wife was no longer in her bed. Jefferies was suspicious and called the police, but Detective Doyle did not believe that the wife was murdered. After Jefferies teamed up with Stella and Lisa, they all tried to find evidence of the murder.
Once Lisa was caught by the police, for sneaking into the Thorwald’s house, Jefferies was confronted and he was attacked by Thorwald. Once arrested, Thorwald confessed to murdering his wife. The film ended with Jefferies, still in his wheelchair, finally shutting the blinds of the rear window, no longer obsessed with watching the neighbors’ lives. Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) was an important film because it tested the boundaries of the Motion Picture Production Code with its touch on nudity and sexuality, and it examined the theme of voyeurism.
The Motion Picture Production Code was enforced starting in the 1930s and it said “excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embracing, suggestive postures and gestures, are not to be shown” (2 Dixon & Foster 131), which Hitchcock seemed to ignore, with the scenes of the dancer’s naked back, the dancer’s scantily clothed body, and the kissing scenes between Jefferies and Lisa, and the kidding scenes with the newlyweds. Another major theme in this film was voyeurism, in which Jefferies was obsessed with looking outside his rear window, and watching his neighbors.
He had no limits, and he watched them all, without any concern that the neighbors might see him. The use of the audience looking through the voyeur is an interesting technique, and many films have been influenced by Hitchcock’s voyeurism in Rear Window (1954). One film that has been influenced by Rear Window (1954) was Nightcrawler (2014), which was distributed by Open Road Films, it was directed by Dan Gilroy, and it starred Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, and Riz Ahmed.
Jake Gyllenhaal played Louis Bloom, a thief who started his own freelance camera business, in which he shot video with his camera of a crime scene or accident, and then he sent the video footage to a news station for money. Rene Russo played Nina Romina, the news director who took an interest in Blooms’ footage, because it kept the ratings up for her news station, and Riz Ahmed played Rick, a poor kid who was living on the streets, and he got hired to be the assistant of Bloom.
Nightcrawler (2014) was set on the streets of Los Angeles, California, in which Louis Bloom, a prior thief, was looking for a job. When he came upon an accident one night, he noticed a freelance camera crew was videotaping the accident, and then they sent it to a news station for money. In response to that, Bloom bought himself a video camera, a police scanner, and created his own freelance camera business. He then hired Rick as his assistance to navigate and listen to the police scanner. Bloom because obsessed with his work, and he was always listening to the police scanner.
He did everything in his power to get the best shot of the scene, no matter the circumstance, to be the first one to send it to the news station. After Bloom captured a home invasion on video, he followed the suspects, without telling the police who they were, which resulted in a car chase with the police after Bloom called it in. He continued to film after the police and the suspects’ cars crash, and he gave the video to the news station. In the end, Bloom hired a team of interns to expand his freelance video/camera business.
Rear Window (1954) and Nightcrawler (2014) were different in their plots, but were very similar in their theme of voyeurism, in which the protagonist was obsessed with watching people through a camera lens, a video recorder, or binoculars. In Rear Window (1954), the protagonist, Jefferies, spent his days looking out his rear window, and watching the neighbors. He creepily observed their daily lives, without them knowing it. One day, he suspected a neighbor, Thorwald, of murdering the wife, and the audiences noticed Jefferies becoming even more fixated with finding the truth about the murder.
The audience saw this when he slept in his wheelchair to watch the neighbors at night, through his window, instead of sleeping in his bed. He was interested in the neighbor’s life instead of his own, because he wanted to find out the truth of the murder. In Nightcrawler (2014), the audience could see some influence from Rear Window (1954) because there was a theme of voyeurism in it, when the protagonist, Bloom, started his own camera business, in which he recorded videos of accidents and crimes to send to a news station to get money.
Just like Jefferies, he became extremely obsessed with videoing taping other people’s lives, and did anything to get the best video. He was so fixated on a great video, that he desensitized himself from the dead or hurt bodies at the crime scene. For example, at an accident, before the police showed up, he deliberately moved the dead body to get a better angle. For him, it is all about the fame from getting his video on the morning news. At the end, he also set up the car chase, so he could get great footage for the news, even after multiple people were hurt or killed.
Rear Window (1994) definitely influenced Nightcrawler (2014) with its theme of voyeurism, and the protagonist’s ability to become extremely obsessed with watching people’s lives, instead of living their own. Even though Jefferies and Bloom were both voyeurs, watching and videotaping people without their knowledge, their reasons for observing people were totally different. Jefferies was just a bored, middle aged man, who had nothing to do all day so he observed his neighbors, and he became fixated on this because he wanted to catch the killer.
In Nightcrawler (2014), Bloom was doing it for the money and fame. The audiences noticed a change in Bloom when he began to set the crime scene up by moving a dead body, or when he entered a locked house. He had no morals, and he had no remorse for what he had done to get the footage. Finally, in the end Jefferies and Bloom were different because once Jefferies caught the killer, he decided to start living his life, instead of his neighbor’s lives, while Bloom hired a new team of interns to expand his freelance video business. One ended his obsession, while another continued in it.
Another similarity throughout the films were the interesting secondary characters that help Jefferies and Bloom. In Rear Window (1954) the secondary characters consist of Jefferies fiance, Lisa, and his nurse, Stella. In the beginning, both of the women mocked Jefferies obsession with watching the neighbors, and tried to get him to pay attention to them. Stella reprimanded him and said society was a whole “race of Peeping Toms” (4 Hitchcock), and he needed to be less concerned about other people’s lives, and more concerned with his.
Once, the murder occurs, both women finally began to help Jefferies, and they tried to find evidence that would convict Thorwald of murdering his wife. Like Rear Window (1954), in Nightcrawler (2014) Bloom also had a side-kick or helper, named Rick, who was a young, poor teenager, who had the job to listen to the police scanner, to read the gps, and to wait at the car, while Jefferies was filming. Both of the secondary characters were important because they assisted the voyeur throughout the film.
The difference in them was that Jefferies was concerned about his fiance when she was looking for evidence in the man’s apartment, while in Nightcrawler (2014), Rick was not important to Bloom, and could be disposed of at any time, which was what happened at the end, when Rick was killed during the police chase accident. Even though both of these films had protagonist obsessed with watching people, they were also very different.
In conclusion, I was glad that I had the opportunity to watch both of these films, because I had never seen them before. I had seen multiple Hitchcock films, but had yet to see Rear Window (1954). I really enjoyed this film, and it was interesting to see a director use the theme of voyeurism, and have the protagonist catch a killer, because of his obsessive desire to watch the neighbors through his rear window. Although it was a good film, there were some flaws, such as the duration.
It could have been cut a little, because it was slow moving in the beginning, and there were a lot of repeating material, in which the neighbors did the same thing every morning. Even though Nightcrawler (2014) had a different plot than Rear Window (1954), I definitely saw some overlapping themes in both films. The big similarity was the theme of voyeurism, in which both protagonists had a fascination with watching people, especially with a camera lens, without the people knowing they were being watched.
These were decent films, and I enjoyed watching them, but I did like Rear Window (1954), much better than Nightcrawler (2014), because I did not like Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, and his creepy obsession to change the crime scene to get the best video for the news station. I believe Jefferies was watching the neighbors as a past time, and he wanted to find the murderer, while Bloom was filming other people for himself, and the benefit of getting paid for it. In the end, I would recommend both films because they both had interesting and intriguing story lines.