A classic among classics, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window is a mystery and thriller starring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly that, in 1954, raised the bar for what intrigue could mean in motion pictures. The film opens with professional photographer, L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies (Stewart) confined to his New York apartment with a broken leg. Despite his injury, or perhaps because of it, Jeff turns his investigative interests upon his neighbors whose apartments are arrayed before his window as if the activities inside were meant to be on display. We soon meet the neighbor who exercises constantly, the married couple who sleep on their small balcony, the struggling songwriter working at his piano; and the salesman with the nagging bedridden wife. Throughout the film, we are treated to our own “rear window” each of us looking into Jefferies’ life as he looks into the lives of his neighbors’ and throughout, we sit front and center on a time when films reveled in the simple act of a story unfolding and the grist of the human emotions therein. This being Hitchcock though, the choices of which details are reveled and which are concealed are masterful and like Jefferies, we are quickly swept into the apparent mystery unfolding in the apartment of the salesman and his wife.
For the dharma student, Rear Window paints a picture of how we come to have such commitment to a state of affairs that just could not be that case. We believe for example, that “things could just happen, that they are random”, or that “some things just are, or that they exist from their own side”. Like Jefferies, we sit on the perch of our minds looking out into the world and too often mistake the signals we receive for “facts”. Like Jefferies, we should endeavor toward knowing just exactly what is “out there” but should always remember that the veil through which we peer is subtle and difficult to pierce. For whether or not Jefferies is able to break through into seeing the truth in his neighbors’ activities or to decide if such a thing is even possible, you’ll have to see Rear Window.