The 10 Hidden Cuts in Rope (1948), Alfred Hitchcock’s Famous “One-Shot” Feature Film

Among his many accom­plish­ments at the inter­sec­tion of show­man­ship and pure cin­e­ma, Alfred Hitch­cock man­aged, in 1948, to make a fea­ture film with­out any cuts — or rather, more impres­sive­ly, he made a fea­ture film peo­ple believed had no cuts. Though cinephiles will know sev­er­al fine exam­ples of no-cut or few-cut movies from recent years (I’ve enjoyed Mike Fig­gis’ four-screen Time Code since it came out in the nineties, and I often rec­om­mend Il-gon Song’s more recent but rar­er one-cut Magi­cians), they’ll also know that, due to phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions in the film tech­nol­o­gy of Hitch­cock­’s day, nobody — not even Hitch­cock — could pos­si­bly have made a film longer than ten min­utes out of a sin­gle, unbro­ken shot.

So how did Rope, one of Hitch­cock­’s less­er-cel­e­brat­ed but still thor­ough­ly fas­ci­nat­ing projects, con­vinc­ing­ly fake its own form? Edi­tor Vashi Nedo­man­sky shows us in the three-minute video above. “On fur­ther exam­i­na­tion,” Nedo­man­sky writes on his blog, “Hitchcock’s gem actu­al­ly con­tains ten edits. Five of them are hid­den as the cam­era lens is filled by fore­ground objects. The oth­er five edits are reg­u­lar hard cuts that not many peo­ple either real­ize or acknowl­edge.”

Nofilm­school offers a post that goes into greater depth on Rope and edit­ing: “Even though there is edit­ing, it’s often described as a film that plays out in real time. Why? Prob­a­bly because it’s such an immer­sive piece of film­mak­ing; the hid­den edits and use of hand­held cam­eras fol­low and track its char­ac­ters, allow­ing audi­ences to expe­ri­ence and react to each sit­u­a­tion at the same moment the actors do — right in the thick of the action.” You can find a more the­o­ret­i­cal take from Peter J. Del­lo­lio at Flick­head, who describes Rope as a pic­ture explor­ing “some of the fun­da­men­tal char­ac­ter­is­tics of the cin­e­mat­ic abstrac­tion of time and space by using the mobile cam­era as an agent that gives plas­tic real­i­ty to sub­jec­tive mate­r­i­al” whose “syn­the­sis of real time and filmic space forces the view­er to absorb nar­ra­tive infor­ma­tion on mul­ti­ple, often dis­taste­ful­ly iron­ic lev­els.” For a dif­fer­ent fram­ing, pre­sen­ta­tion, and analy­sis of Rope’s cuts, see also the short video essay “Skip­ping Rope.” Hitch­cock may not have had the abil­i­ty to real­ly make the movie in one shot, but he cer­tain­ly had the abil­i­ty to keep us all tak­ing about it these 65 years.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

21 Free Hitch­cock Movies Online

Hitchcock’s Sev­en-Minute Edit­ing Mas­ter Class

Who Cre­at­ed the Famous Show­er Scene in Psy­cho? Alfred Hitch­cock or the Leg­endary Design­er Saul Bass?

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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  • Duh-huh says:

    No one I’ve heard of until you has put forth that Rope was alleged to be in one cut. There’s a famous inter­view with Jim­my Stew­art lament­ing the labo­ri­ous TEN-MINUTE shots that were a pain to reshoot when they got nine min­utes in then blew it. They even dis­cussed the way Hitch rubbed the scenes on either AMC or TMC, I can’t remem­ber, but it has always been known that there are cuts in there. But that’s how it is on the web — every­one is the first to dis­cov­er fire. GREAT SCOOP!

  • sile angel says:

    Very inter­est­ing . Keep up the good work

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