Book Review: Perpetual Movement – Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rope’

Perpetual Movement

Publisher: State University of New York Press

Release Date: July 2021

“I wondered while planning this book if I should divide Rope into hundreds of brief fragments for examination. I quickly realized, however, that Hitchcock’s film… has a textual form that suggests a convenient way in which to separate the text for consideration: it is already divided into eleven lexias.” —Neil Badmington (Introduction, Perpetual Movement: Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Rope,’ 2021)

Neil Badmington’s lengthy analysis of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope (1948) is the first of its kind. Each of the book’s eleven chapters covers one of the film’s eleven shots—with the first chapter covering the film’s production history and its eventual release since the shot is essentially the credit sequence (although this shot is also discussed briefly). This chapter is only seventeen and a half pages in length, so those who want an in-depth examination of the film’s production and release will have to wait until such a book is written. Having said this, the chapter (and others) does draw upon little-known archival materials, including set drawings and drafts of the screenplay.

Much of the text, however, is devoted to a thorough analysis of the film’s eleven shots. The writing style is scholarly but accessible and fairly engaging (particularly if one happens to be a Hitchcock fan). The film’s treatment of space, sound, editing, sexuality, source material, design, intertextuality, narrative, and music is examined in some detail, and this is Badmington’s primary concern. Fans of the film will certainly be pleased to have the book on their shelves.

Review by: Devon Powell

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