James Stewart is the man who sees too much. “Jeff” Jeffries is a sports photographer waylaid by a broken leg, doomed to spend the summer in a wheelchair in his New York apartment. And this is before the days of DVD; he doesn’t even have a TV set! Fortunately – or not – Jeff can while away the hours watching reality unfold through the windows across the courtyard. There’s a spinster, “Miss Lonelyheart”; a composer working on a new tune; “Miss Torso”, a dancer. And then there’s Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr), who disposes of his wife one night when he imagines no one is looking…
Hitchcock shoots this mystery story without ever leaving Jeff’s apartment, a technical feat that also accentuates the suspense: there’s no telling for the longest time whether he’s an eye-witness to murder or a bored insomniac with a macabre imagination. This masterpiece is a comment on voyeurism of course, but don’t overlook how the deft vignettes across the way all comment obliquely on the other quandary in Jeff’s life: whether to settle down with beautiful Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly, at her most captivating). It’s a marriage comedy, in other words, very dark, and very light.
Truffaut: “Rear Window goes beyond pessimism; it is really a cruel film. Stewart fixes his glasses on his neighbours only to catch them in moments of failure, in ridiculous postures, when they appear grotesque or even hateful.
The film’s construction is very like a musical composition: several themes are intermingled and are in perfect counterpoint to each other – marriage, suicide, degradation and death – and thare bathed in a refined eroticism… Rear Window is a film about indiscretion, about intimacy violated and taken by surprise at its most wretched moments; a film about the impossibility of happiness, about dirty linen that gets washed in the courtyard; a film about moral solitude, an extraordinary symphony of daily life and ruined dreams.” (1954)
"Of all Hitchcock’s films, this is the one which most reveals the man." Geoff Andrew, Time Out