Alfred Hitchcock's 1948 film Rope is known for it's long takes. There is plenty of documentation regarding the length of each shot and the limitations of the technology available, but less so information regarding the why of this tactic.

What motivated Hitchcock to film in this manner? What effect was he trying to create?

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    @close-voters In which way is this "primarily opinion-based"? The long takes (or seemingly single take) of Rope is a common and famous attribute of it and it isn't unlikely Hitchcock wanted to convey some message or effect on the audience with it.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Dec 16, 2013 at 9:42
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    GOOD QUESTION, I love it when someone comes up with a challenge like this... looks like we're being plagued by vote closers :( ... no matter, I'm sure there are enough sensible people here to see this isn't opinion based and re-open immediately. Democracy shall prevail! Dec 16, 2013 at 13:32
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    ...maybe people were voting to close in order to get the super cool "Passed Judgement" hat for Hat Dash? :-)
    – stevvve
    Dec 16, 2013 at 15:02
  • After thinking about it a bit more, I think the close votes may have to do with a specific interpretation of my question. The close-voters read the question as asking for a theory as to why Hitch used the long shots. While I'll admit I am curious about that, the main point of my question was to find out what motivated Hitch to use the long shots, which the think the answerers so far understand.
    – stevvve
    Dec 17, 2013 at 0:02
  • @stevvve "a theory as to why Hitch used the long shots" - "what motivated Hitch to use the long shots" - Isn't that pretty much the same anyway?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Dec 20, 2013 at 1:03

3 Answers 3


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In 1962 François Truffaut interviewed Alfred Hitchcock rather extensively.
About 12 hours of audio has been broadcast on french radio. You can listen to the 25 parts here.

In part 15 Hitchcock talks about "Rope" (I transcribed it myself, so please excuse any errors):

I don't know why I really indulged in the stunt, I can only call it a stunt, in "Rope".

The play played in its own time. It was continuous action from the moment the curtain went up and when it finished. And I got the idea, how can I technically treat this in a similar thinking, that the technique should play without a break... the presentation of the film.

In other words, there is no break anywhere in the storytelling, It starts at at seven-thirty and finishes about nine-fifteen. And I got this crazy idea of saying, well, maybe if I could do it in one shot, the whole film.

When I look back of course it's quite nonsensical, really, because I was breaking all my own tradition of using film, the cutting of film, to tell story.*

The interview about "Rope" is about 30 mins long, so if you want to learn more about the film, have a listen.

The late film critic Roger Ebert wrote this about "Rope":

Alfred Hitchcock called “Rope” an “experiment that didn’t work out,” and he was happy to see it kept out of release for most of three decades.


To add to Christian Rau's answer, here is an outtake from Wikipedia:

When filming Rope (1948), Alfred Hitchcock intended for the film to have the effect of one long continuous take, but the cameras available could hold no more than 1000 feet of 35 mm film. As a result, each take used up to a whole roll of film and lasts up to 10 minutes. Many takes end with a dolly shot to a featureless surface (such as the back of a character's jacket), with the following take beginning at the same point by zooming out. The entire film consists of only 11 shots. (For a complete analysis of Hitchcock's hidden and conventional cuts in Rope, see David Bordwell's text "Poetics of Cinema", 2008).

Some will conjecture the reason you do not see much of this type of cinematography today is that the caliber of actor has gone down. Directors rely on action and imagery to tell the story rather than relying on the actor. The actor has become the "pretty face" to look at and not the means by which we learn what is going on. Hitchcock was renowned for his "long shot" style of story telling. And one of the reasons his movies still stands today as some of the best ever produced.

  • "Some will conjecture the reason you do not see much of this type of cinematography today is that the caliber of actor has gone down. [...] The actor has become the "pretty face" to look at and not the means by which we learn what is going on." - Though this sounds a bit over-generalizing to me.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Jan 17, 2014 at 16:35
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    @NapoleonWilson: It used to be common for directors to film a master shot of a scene, in which the actors run the scene continuously from start to finish, and use that as a timing reference when assembling close-ups. Assembling a bunch of independently-recorded lines into a natural-sounding conversation would have been harder. Improvements in editing, however, have reduced the need for a master shot (versus a bunch of separately-shot lines) has reduced the level of practice actors get in delivering continuous scenes.
    – supercat
    May 13, 2014 at 13:41

I think that the long takes, or just a single take as it should look for the audience, fit perfectly to the fact that the whole movie is set at a single small place. Those two aspects contribute to the impression that we are actually watching a play instead of a movie (as also stated in this answer to a different question).

To me this had two at first paradoxical effects. On the one hand it makes the time feel smooth yet short and thus emphasizes the real-time aspect of the action and in this way it contributes to the intensity of the whole situation. But on the other hand this smoothness also doesn't make it feel hectic or too fast, which emphasizes the calmness and intelligence of Brandon's actions and the mental games he's playing with his guests.

So this real-time one-take shot does neither delay the tension, nor does it artificially compress the action. It just shows it as intense as it really would have been.

(Though, these are just some small speculative points for now.)

  • Good Answers, guys +1 both...got another long, winding researched one brewing, watch this space.. Dec 16, 2013 at 13:27
  • @JohnSmithOptional "got another long, winding researched one brewing, watch this space" - Still waiting. Or has Oliver_C's answer already trumped your efforts?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    May 5, 2014 at 17:13

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