By most accounts, Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 classic Rear Window is as perfectly constructed a film as any the medium has ever produced. It is a “purely cinematic film,” as Hitchcock later described it, whose obvious spatial handicaps both exploited and negated one of the camera’s pre-eminent virtues, its effortless ability to navigate between the proximal and distal. The plot is well-known: world-weary photographer, wheelchair-bound Jeff (Jimmy Stewart) is confined to recuperative leave in his Greenwich Village apartment with only (or mostly) a panorama of the encompassing tenement complex beyond as his company. But as Jean-Luc Godard commented, one never recalls the particulars of any of Hitchcock’s narratives but, rather, only the shots that framed them. In the case of Rear Window, however, neither specific scenes nor shots prove more memorable than the architecture and spatial configuration of the famed courtyard set. These have been analyzed to the point of exhaustion, with the chief exegetic points being well familiar to any casual student of cinema, but never have they been seen before like this video time-lapse.
Meticulously assembled by Jeff Desom, using just After-Effects and Photoshop, the video condenses Hitchcock’s masterwork into three breathtaking minutes in which the entirety of the film’s events—sans the dramatic, personal scenes between the protagonists—play out before Jeff’s gaze. Desom’s collage is completely comprised of footage from the film, with the iconic window panorama being neatly tailored and augmented with various photographic effects (tilt-shift, stabilization, “rain”) so as to achieve verisimilitude with the original and to re-create the environmental changes that propel the narrative along. “Since everything was filmed from pretty much the same angle,” Desom writes, “I was able to match them into a single panoramic view of the entire backyard without any greater distortions. (Text: Samuel Medina)