In crime writing, composers not only scrutinise justice but also experiment with textual forms and features in response to different contexts In Rear Window (Hitchcock 1954) Hitchcock scrutinises justice through the actions by the detective in solving the crime, which causes the audience to question certain ethics during the context of the film. However, through the use of various forms of textual features, Hitchcock enables the audience to empathise with the characters in the film and try to convince them that justice is done.Hitchcock introduces a different approach in solving the crime from the conventions of the Golden Age, as a result of the tense and rising suspicions from the Cold War and McCarthyism within American at that time.
This is shown at the opening of the film, whereby the sense of voyeurism is shown through the establishing shot. The long shot and the panning of the camera illustrates the setting of the movie as well as the neighbourhood whereby the crime will take place.This idea of voyeurism is shown throughout the film as Jeff's curiosity towards his neighbours gradually turns into semi-professional spying. This is shown through Jeff's use of his photographic tele-lens and binoculars from his job as a photographer to spy on his neighbours. Stella's reaction to Jeff is shown through the metaphor “We've become a race of peeping Toms” which emphasises the surreptitious and spying nature of America from the communist scare during the 1950s. Her referral to Jeff “should have your eyes put out with red hot pokers” reinforces Jeff being a typical voyeur.
Lisa's and Stella's thoughts regarding Jeff's obsessive gaze represents the voice of the audience, however progressing through the movie they are unable to resist spying on their neighbours either. Therefore, this raises the question of whether conducting an unethical act of spying and invading one's personal life is appropriate in solving the crime. Thus, the responder is forced to decide whether justice is truly done or not. However, Hitchcock attempts to convince the audience that Jeff's act of voyeurism and invasion of privacy is a necessity in order to gain evidence and capture Lars Thorwald murdering his wife.This is shown through the murder of the innocent dog, whereby as the audience we know it is Thorwald's doing as the dog was getting close to unravelling evidence hidden in the garden bed. This is because Hitchcock utilises the point of view editing in the previous scene where Thorwald becomes aware of the dog's interest in digging up the garden bed.
During this event, Hitchcock cuts to Jeff's POV shot of Thorwald shooing away the dog, and cuts back to Jeff's expression of suspicion.Therefore, the use of the murdered dog allows the responder to sympathise with the owners, and slightly disregard the unethical nature of Jeff's voyeurism. At the end of the film where Thorwald confronts Jeff, Jeff's further injury by breaking his other leg also suggests that the unethical nature of spying on his neighbours in order to solve the crime comes at a price, which enables the responder to empathise with Jeff's pain and immobility and ultimately reach a sense of justice as Jeff has also suffered for his unethical actions.The increasing role of women during the context of the film is also emphasised through the characterisation of Lisa and Stella.
The use of the female intuition shown through Lisa's comment “And the last thing she'd leave behind would be her wedding ring! ” emphasises the importance in the role of women, as she later became a physical extension of Jeff by gathering the physical evidence whereby the crippled detective couldn't. Hitchcock reinforces the importance in the role of women in the film as a contrast to the late First Wave Feminism movement of the 1950s. This is also shown through Stella's comment “...
he economic crash... I predicted it” emphasising the change in the nature of women becoming more knowledgeable and also capable of becoming thinkers. However, Doyle's approach to the incident is fairly sceptical and becomes the main source of the red herring, as he doubts Jeff's claim due to a basis of unethical spying and lack of physical evidence.
His scepticism is shown through his statement “It'll wear off in time along with the hallucinations”. But, through the use of Lisa's feminine intuition, it is what ultimately drives Jeff into continuing his investigation and solving the crime.This is shown through Lisa intruding inside Thorwald's apartment in order to obtain the evidence of the wedding ring. This was significant in showing the increasing role of women in society, as Jeff finally begins to show a true sense of anxiety and passion for Lisa “Lisa what are you doing? Come on, get out of there! ” which emphasises a degree of role reversal during the post war context, as during the second world war only the women felt worried and panic about the well-being of their partners.It is also during this time in the war when the role of women as nurses in aiding the men increased, becoming increasingly significant in the war which is reflected in Lisa's attempts to help Jeff solve the crime. Therefore, Hitchcock utilises a variety of technical forms and features in his film Rear Window not only to scrutinise justice and question the level of ethics involved, but also illustrates the different values and change during the different context in which the film was set in.