Jeff’s position in front of the different windows in his apartment is reminiscent of a viewer in the movie theater. So the spectator in the theater is Jeff’s double. The viewer in the theater gazes at Jeff, the same way Jeff gazes at his neighbors and at the same time it's doubled on another level by the perspective of the director behind the camera. The viewer is allowed to see what Hitchcock wants us to see and at the same time our vision is limited by Jeff’s camera as well.
Voyeurism generally establishes separation between the object gazed at, and the source of the gaze. The voyeur consciously establishes a division between the object looked at and himself, thereby establishing a boundary. This happens in Rear Window. There is a clear and definite separation between Jeff and the object he gazes at. He sits in a dark room, observes the lives just outside of his apartment and at the same time he is not part of the world outside his window. This distance proves to be illusory and during the course of the film is progressively broken down.
In the beginning of the film, Jeff doesn't show a committed interest in Lisa. Although engaged, he doesn't want to marry her. Lisa is portrayed as an exhibitionist which is accented by her fascination with clothes and jewelry. This display of her sexuality triggers a sense of fear in Jeff. It becomes the symbol of his castration anxiety forcing him to channel the anxiety somehow, or attempt to eliminate it. Either like Thorwald, by murdering his wife, or neutralizing the threat by turning Lisa into another object of voyeurism. When Lisa chooses to participate in his hobby, she becomes part of the world he looks at from his window. He can watch her, watching others, which gives him a sense of control. This ends up neutralizing his fear and anxiety. From this point Lisa becomes sexually desirable to him.
Jeff’s voyeurism provides him with insight into potential relationship choices with Lisa. The connection between the voyeur and the gazed object is defined by the object’s ability to fragment the illusion of the total image. Jeff doesn’t need to witness the entire life of his neighbors to draw conclusions. He observes fragments of their daily life and based on these observations he makes conclusions. Moreover, the voyeur chooses the image or behavior that he desires to identify with. Thus all of the neighbors represent a possible outcome in his relationship with Lisa.
Further analysis shows that through the camera techniques the audience is forced to identify with Jeff’s male gaze which objectifies woman.
On the other hand, the female member of the audience is also forced to identify with the gaze of the male leading character. This identification turns the female viewer into an active female voyeur rather than a passive exhibitionist.
4 / 5
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Staring: James Stewart, Grace Kellly