The conceit of Rope is that it takes place in real time. A recently murdered corpse lies – concealed – in his murderers’ apartment, filmed with a single unbroken shot. The camera gimmick is executed with less panache than I’d expect from Hitchcock, including an unnecessary cut right after the credits. Aside from some unsubtle hints about the main characters’ sexuality, there’s little ambiguity to the characters, and the tension that should permeate the proceedings is muted. The best scenes occur in the last few minutes, as the one character with true ambiguity – a professor played by Jimmy Stewart – uncovers the crime and there is some genuine uncertainty as to how he’ll respond.
What is most interesting about the roaming camera is that it gradually shifts its focus from the faces of those in conversation – and the film is essentially all conversation – to the objects around them. During important conversations, the camera shifts from the characters’ faces to gaze at significant objects: a gun, the box containing the aforementioned corpse or the eponymous rope. It reflects how the protagonists see people as objects, playthings, but unfortunately the film seems to do the same, treating the characters as plot devices rather than people.