I was delighted to watch at the film Club one of the most revered films of Hitchcock. Rear Window is a masterpiece of perspective, tension and fear, and I believe a photographer has a lot to learn from this one, as well as all other movies of the esteemed director.
Just as the hero is trapped in a wheelchair, the viewer is trapped too: in his point of view, in his lack of options, in his limited freedom. Roger Ebert discusses the scenario with a keen eye for details and with an avid desire to disect the man in the wheelchair. The secret watch Jeff maintains on his neighbours becomes a shared obsession with the viewer, a kind of voyeurism we could learn from a lot, should we be attracted to such a thing. I must admit I used a tele lens and often felt the same way as Jeff, hiding, observing, following.
Actually, the whole movie is a strange metaphor for the fascination of voyeurism and the conclusions (sometimes wrong) the voyeur can draw from observing from the distance. Apart from his particular kind of “pleasure”, the voyeur believes he can understand from a vantage point everything that goes on with his subject. It turns out it may be wrong. Thank goodness we, as photographers, do not need to question the inner motifs of our subjects, suppose we capture a great shot. It is the role of the public to make assumptions, not ours.
Returning to the movie, I believe Jeff is a good role model for a photographer. He is naturally curious, he likes to look. We cannot discover anything new unless we train our curiosity, even when we are limited in our moves by a phisical injury. However, the passive role the main character of Rear Window has is not something we should approve. He is no moralist, no action figure, no god doer. I believe that we, as artists, should we witness injustice, must not just capture it on camera, but also point it out and try to do something about it.