Wednesday, 23 April 2014

How Rear Window Should Have Ended

Rear Window is a very interesting film, and there is no doubt it is a classic in the thriller genre. Jimmy Stewart of course is great in the role of the unfortunate protagonist, as are his co-stars. It also takes a fair bit of talent to be able to tell an entire story with the perspective almost never leaving a single room (outside of a few shots at the very end), and there is some suspense to be found in how he catches the villain. There is just one thing that I've always been a bit critical about, and that is specifically the ending. I've heard a few different justifications for why the movie ended the way it did, but I still feel as though it could have been more interesting.

For those of you not familiar with this film, it was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and released in 1954, starring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly. My colleague Johnny has already done a review of this film which you can see here, but the basic plot is that Jimmy Stewart is a professional photographer who has been confined to a boring apartment after breaking his leg and getting stuck in a wheelchair. The only thing he can do to occupy himself is look out his rear window into the courtyard and watch other people's daily lives, which all goes fine until he sees clues that lead him to suspect that a neighbor may have murdered his own wife.

All this is interesting, but I found the ending somewhat predictable. Basically, the short version is that Jimmy Stewart figures it out, the bad guy shows up and tries to stop him but ends up getting arrested. What I've always thought is that it might have been more interesting if the plot had taken a different turn. Since the actual murder itself occurs offscreen, and for much of the movie Jimmy Stewart struggles to find any solid evidence, I've often thought it might have been a more interesting twist if it turned out the neighbor hadn't actually committed any murder. I feel like it would be a lot more of a memorable ending if perhaps instead every "clue" the narrator found turned out to have a perfectly mundane explanation, and if anything it was the protagonist himself who drove the neighbor to attempt a murder. Another angle I have considered (though it would be hard to get away with in Hollywood during the 1950's) would be if it was kept ambiguous, perhaps with clues both ways and leaving the audience to speculate. In fact there is even a bit of that in the actual film (we never do find out what the mystery item the neighbor buried in his garden was, or what insight it provided into the murder).

Now granted, I have heard reasons for why the movie went this particular route, and most of them are fair enough. Still, I do wonder if the movie would have been more interesting with the neighbor being a well-meaning individual who is driven insane by the misunderstanding of a stranger. Perhaps if someone ever gets hired to do a remake, these alternative twists might be worth considering.

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