Like the Danish dogma brethren, Hitchcock understood early on that an artist should limit the sprawl and grandiloquence of his expression. The first colour film of his career, Rope, set within the confines of a single apartment, continues the experimentation with a confined space that began with Lifeboat (1944) and culminated in Rear Window (1954), upping the ante with its ten-minute (the maximum length of a film reel) uncut takes.
Structurally, Rope is not a cryptic whodunnit but more like a Columbo episode, in which the crime of a pair of young men who strangle their former college classmate and hide the body in a coffin serving as the dinner table for a dinner party is shown right up front. Borrowing their experimental enthusiasms from Nietzsche’s Übermensch philosophy, they draw from one of the guests, their radical teacher Rupert (James Stewart in his first Hitchcock role), who quickly catches on to the act, and the quintessentially Dostoyevskian drama grows into a study of the latter’s sense of responsibility and guilt.
Particularly intriguing are the extra-cinematic aspects, such as the dialogue’s meta-jokes about Cary Grant or Hitchcock’s decision to cast two real-life gay/bisexual men (John Dall and Farley Granger) as his “killer couple”. What finally draws one’s attention is Stewart’s sparingly used “Japanese cold” performance.