Hitchcock: Rear Window and the Post-War Society
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Hitchcock: Rear Window and the Post-War Society

Looking deeply into the film Rear Window, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and explaining its undertones of post-war society.

One film that most effectively exposes an ideological problem in post-war society is the Alfred Hitchcock directed Rear Window, starring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. It exposes a critique on post-war society because of the plot and the paranoia that Stewarts character, L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies, portrays throughout the entire film. Unlike some famous instances of paranoia, Jefferies ends up being completely correct about his hunch. A couple particular things within the film that play on post-war society are Jefferies mysterious neighbor Lars Thorwald, played by Raymond Burr, and his clearly European heritage, the overall sense of paranoia and surveillance that Jefferies portrays throughout the entire film, and possibly Grace Kelly’s characters intended look for the film.

Lars Thorwald, Jefferies mysterious neighbor that lives across the courtyard, is the antagonist throughout the film that Jefferies has a strange, off-putting feeling about from the moment he picks up his binoculars. Thorwald, being of European decent which you can tell by his name and accent, seems meant to be the antagonist because of the fact that he is from Europe. He is a violent, unfriendly man who ends up killing his wife, all while an American man is spying on him from across the courtyard. In 1954, which was when the movie came it, it only seemed appropriate to have the villain in a big budget movie be from Europe, especially because it was in the wake of WWII.

May films that came out in the immediate wake of WWII exude some sense of paranoia, and rightfully so. The things America was involved with in WWII were some horrible things, so looking over our shoulders in a military sense should be the first line of defense. L.B. Jefferies, who by occupation is a photographer, which is exactly what got him into his current incapacitated state, starts surveilling Thorwald simply out of boredom, but ends up finding out that Thorwald killed his own wife. In a sense, Jefferies represents a paranoid, disabled veteran, which was common with soldiers after they had left the battlefield.

Many soldiers were still traumatized from what they witnessed on the battlefield, and often had flashbacks or night terrors because of everything they had gone through. Jefferies being a photographer may be suffering from these same characteristics because he, possibly, was a photographer in a warzone, causing him to be paranoid of anyone who may even look suspicious.

Grace Kelly was one of the most beautiful actresses of the 20th century, and stole the scene whenever she appeared on screen in Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Her characters look, however, could be viewed as the blonde haired, blue-eyed look that was once beloved by Adolf Hitler. Now, one is not saying that that is the look that Hitchcock was going for or if it means anything at all, it is just a simple observation that could be taken into account when speaking on Rear Window and the power that Grace Kelly’s character, Lisa Freemont, seems to have over not only the characters in the film, but the audience as well.

Rear Window represents post-war society in that being paranoid of anyone looking suspicious, or even being of European decent or from Europe, could cause a minor social uproar because of WWII. Lars Thorwald, who by name and accent, is clearly European, which could have led Jefferies to believe something was awry with his very unfriendly and mysterious neighbor. L.B. Jefferies is a guilty party in this as well however, because of his possible post-war paranoia and overall boredom, he invaded the privacy of who we at first believe is a fine, well to do man. However, as the story unfolds, we being to realize how big of a monster Lars Thorwald really is. We are then thankful for L.B. Jefferies insistence of Thorwald’s guilt, and his breaking of what should be a rule that photographers live by, and that is not to judge a book by its cover.

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