Rear Window Timelapse / Alfred Hitchcock / Jeff Desom / 1954
The apartment itself is situated on 10th Street, just east of Hudson Street, Manhattan. As Donald Spoto and Juhani Pallasmaa among other commentators have argued, its location can be deduced from the address mentioned of the apartment on the other side of the courtyard: 125 West 9th Street. Because American law required that a film crime was not situated at an existing place, the address is fictitious: in reality, 9th Street changes into Christopher Street west from 6th Avenue. However, at 125 Christopher Street, the building was situated that inspired Hitchcock, who, according to a Paramount Advance Campaign document, “dispatched four photographers to that colorful section of New York with instructions to shoot the Village from all angles, in all weather and under all lighting conditions, from dawn to midnight.” ➡︎
All of the film's production elements are superior, especially the huge set, designed by Hal Pereira and built at the Paramount studio. It represents the best of studio artifice, being a unit that includes the rear of Jeff's apartment as well as his view of the garden court and buildings that enclose the court. There is one comparatively large, comparatively new apartment building, which is flanked by what appear to be brownstones, one Federal house and other buildings that have been remodeled out of all associations to the past. As lighted and photographed by Robert Burks, this set is as much a character as any of the actors in the film.
There is one detail about the set that forever fixes the film in the early to mid-1950's. That is the total lack of window air-conditioners around the garden court, even though the temperatures hang in the 90's through the course of the story. We see old-fashioned electric fans but no air-conditioners, possibly because there would be no story in this age of nearly universal artificial refrigeration, even for the budget-minded. Air-conditioners would mean closed windows, and ''Rear Window'' is completely dependent on open windows. ➡︎
Since about a dozen of the apartments play a role in the story line and because the camera peeked into the interiors by means of giant booms, they were upholstered or furnished extensively by Sam Comer and Ray Moyer to match the character of their occupants. A publicity handout announced that New York designer Grace Sprague (uncredited) had been hired to work out “visualizations” of the apartments as well as sketching “the kind of costumes needed for the actors working in them.” An unsigned Paramount memo further states that “Hitchcock feels due to the fact that he will be jumping around in the various apartments so much that the color of the background walls within the apartments, as well as color of wardrobe, will help orient the audience quicker than anything.” Such a meticulous attention to details gave the set its realist but also its uncanny look: a feeling of threat and danger gradually penetrates into an everyday and familiar environment. “This movie could never have been accomplished on location with the same dramatic impact,” Pereira assured.
The theme of voyeurism combined with the spatial confinements of a single set turns the architectural construction of Rear Window into a magisterial viewing device. The architecture becomes an instrument of the gaze, a kind of camera obscura on an urban scale. First and foremost, Hitchcock presents the architecture as a tool of the scopic drive by emphasizing the window, which, as the film’s title suggests, is also the veritable subject of the film. Unmistakably, he presents the window as a metaphor for the film screen. In Rear Window, the window has become a cinematic equivalent of the old pictorial metaphor that dates back to the Renaissance, when the Italian architect and art theoretician Leone Battista Alberti defined painting, in his De Pictura (1435), as a window onto the world. Instead of a flat surface that is being looked at, the painting is a frame that is looked through. This concept, which is often visualized in the countless illustrations of so-called perspective machines of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, demonstrates that the visual understanding and the optical domination of the world is dependent on the construction of a frame situated between the world and its beholder.
Not only the window of Jeffries’ flat functions as a film screen, each window on the other side of the courtyard does as well—the proportions of these windows even match perfectly the aspect ratio (1.66:1) of the film. Viewed across the courtyard, the characters seem just real enough, something half-remembered, like the images on a cinema screen.
Given this perspective, Rear Window contains a series of films into one single film. Each window offers a view to a singular picture and the entire courtyard is a kind of urban equivalent of a cable television mosaic with Jeffries (as well as the spectator) zapping between channels. ➡︎
◼︎ Think Pieces - Project: Rear Window (1954) / Omar El Feki / Interiors
◼︎ Great Movie: Rear Window / Roger Ebert
◼︎ Rear Window: dissecting and recreating a movie’s scenario / Fosco Lucarelli / Socks / 2012
◼︎ The Importance of Set Design In Hitchcock’s Rear Window / Thea Marshall-Behrendt / Kent University / 2015
▶︎ 'Rear Window' - Tribute to Classic Movie Sets / Siebe de Boer / 2014
▶︎ Close-Up on Hitchcock: The Director Mike Leigh on Rear Window / BBC / 1997
▶︎ Rear Window Symmetry / Michael Mclennan / 2015
◼︎ My favourite Hitchcock: Rear Window / Killian Fox / The Guardian / 2012
◼︎ Behind the Scenes of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window / Dangerous Minds / 2015
◼︎ Inside the real Greenwich Village apartment that inspired ‘Rear Window’ / Lou Lumenick / New York Post / August 6, 2014