A R C H I T E C T U R E
IN LA JALOUSIE AND REAR WINDOW
A N X I E T Y
Alain Robbe-Grillet’s La Jalousie and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window: Constructing the Architecture of Anxiety
150050939 Seyoung Han Stage 3 Architecture BA Dissertation
This dissertation investigates the influence of anxiety within two pieces of fiction, La Jalousie and Rear Window onto the architecture they exhibit, and its resulting effect on the reader and audience. Both released in the 1950s, the consequences of the Second World War (1939-45) impacted the attitudes of creators in the portrayal of themes and desired tone for their works. Writers to artists used their medium to represent their reactions and feelings, which would influence those who then received it. This impact is documented through a discussion, with points of argument from the authorâ€™s own personal impressions.
List of Figures
Chapter 1: “Place”
Chapter 2: “Viewpoints” i: narrative viewpoint – “the gaze” ii: physical viewpoint – windows, doors and everything inbetween
Chapter 3: “Space” i: the exterior to the interior, and vice versa ii: the exterior and the interior, as one
List of Figures
List of Figures
0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5
1.1 1.2 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 2.10 2.11 vi
Sketch of La Jalousie house. Drawn and edited on Photoshop, 2018. Jeff in his wheelchair. Digital frame Giorgio de Chirico, Piazza d’Italia, 1948, (Galleria d’Arte Maggiore, Milan) René Magritte, La reproduction interdite (Not to be Reproduced), 1937, (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam) Sectional axonometric, from Karen Bermann The House Behind Plan of plantation from La Jalousie. Original scan from book with legend edited on Illustrator, 2018. Cityscape of Rear Window. Digital frame Photo collage to show opening shot. Created on Photoshop, 2018. Jeff’s belongings. Digital frame Diagram of apartment and its residents. Drawn and edited on Photoshop, 2018 Section of Rear Window. Drawn and edited on Photoshop, 2018. Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase, (No.2), 1912, (Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia) Titular window of Rear Window. Digital frame Hiding in the darkness. Digital frame Thorwald’s penetrating stare. Digital frame Georges Braque, The Portuguese, 1911, (Kunstsmuseum Basel, Basel) Mapping of possible viewpoints using narration in La Jalousie, pp. 22-29 Le Corbusier, Villa Stein, 1927, (Garches, France)
4 4 6 6 8
12 14 23 23 24-25 26 29 30 31 31 32 33 34
List of Figures
Photograph of Rear Window set.
Plan of Rear Window. Juhani Pallasmaa, 2014. The plan of Rear Window as Foucault’s Panopticon with section. Sketchup, Photoshop and Illustrator, 2018 Thorwald in the corridor, leaving at night. Digital frame Unaware of murder. Digital frame The neighbours gather in the courtyard. Digital frame Thorwald, the monster in the dark. Digital frame Solid walls between window frames. Digital frame Alleyway to street. Digital frame Geometry as boundaries. Illustrator and Photoshop, 2018 Bedroom as prison cell. Sketchup and Photoshop, 2018
3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13
René Magritte, L’evidence eternelle (The Eternally Obvious), 1930, (The Menil Collection, Houston) René Magritte, La condition humaine (The Human Condition), 1933, (National Gallery of Art, Washington) Viewpoints, mixed perspectives and metaphysical representation in M. C. Escher, High and Low, 1947.
39 40 41 41 41 42 42 43 45 46 48
I would like to thank the authors and scholars who took their time to email their research papers to me, when the primary sources were unavailable. Also, to my friends who have shared their insights and patience during my writing process. My upmost gratitude to my dissertation tutor Emma Cheatle, for introducing me to La Jalousie, and a method of writing which allowed me to discuss art history along with architecture and fiction.
Illustrations referenced in full in bibliography. Drawings and artwork are own work through hand drawing, Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator or SketchUp, unless stated otherwise.
Throughout my studies I have always found myself intrigued by the relationship between art/ architecture and the spectator/participant. Architecture is not only an aesthetic art, but is commonly dismissed as an “enclosure”. Reading Juhani Pallasmaa’s The Architecture of the Seven Senses only last year was the confirmation I needed to realise my fascination with the manipulation of space and atmosphere onto us, as users of these spaces. These experiences are all individual to us but can be lasting and so sensitive as to trigger the memory of them with a particular smell, sound or mixture of unique aspects which made that space memorable. To combine this with the added emotional manipulation through narrative fiction was something that I knew I had overlooked in the past. I read research from all fields of study, some of which I had not read so in depth before. These included Sigmund Freud’s psychology papers, literary criticisms and informative books such as on narratology; a great experience in gaining the additional knowledge for my own research. The topic I would most like to mention is the “uncanny”, which was the pivotal theory to tie together literature and film. My previous enthusiasm in art history became an aspect I brought later into my analysis, as the understanding it provided for me visually drove some theoretical concepts of my discussion. Along my research I have adopted and created phrases to easily refer to theories, of which are placed in speech marks. Reading La Jalousie within my seminars was initially a difficult task. I had never encountered a book of that narrative style; the plot builds, but nothing is certain due to the rapidly moving scenes. It was perhaps once I began analysing the structure of the plot, its rhythm and impressively detailed paragraphs that the novel became easier to read and understand. It is a fascinating book, as with every re-read I find myself noticing new techniques or references by the author. This dissertation is a discussion through La Jalousie and Hitchcock’s famed Rear Window, and the ways that anxiety is provoked and conveyed within their architecture. It is not a contest of comparison to see which constructs the architecture of anxiety more effectively, but an investigation in each with references to each other in similarities and differences.
January 2018 ix
Jeff in his wheelchair. Digital frame
Sketch of La Jalousie house, 2018
French writer and filmmaker Alain Robbe-Grillet strove for the self-coined term the ‘New Novel’1 (nouveau roman in French) for the twentieth century, publicly stating the ‘art of the novel [was] dying’.2 His novel, La Jalousie, 1957, is the third title in attempt to ‘drag fiction out of its ruts’.3 Taking a purely descriptive approach, Robbe-Grillet’s novel describes the actions and conversations between a female, A…,4 and a neighbour, Franck. An affair is inferred between the two characters, as the narrating voice is believed to be A…’s husband. Never exposed or personified, the narrator’s identity as a jealous husband is unconfirmed. Originally written in French, the title translates to ‘jealousy’ (of the husband), however it also alludes to the jalousie blinds of the same name.5 Similar voyeuristic themes can be seen in the films of Alfred Hitchcock. What he would later refer to as his best example of ‘purely cinematic film’,6 he directed Rear Window in 1954 once moving to Paramount Pictures. The photographer protagonist, L.B. Jefferies (known as Jeff by the other characters), temporarily confined to a wheelchair (Figure 0.2), passes the time with visits from his devout, socialite girlfriend Lisa Fremont and insurance nurse, Stella. Set in a typical North American city during a heatwave, Jeff is stuck seated by his large paned window as his neighbours in the apartment opposite also have theirs open, tempting Jeff to distract himself by watching their day-to-day lives. We witness him interpret a string of events leading to the conclusion that one resident, Lars Thorwald, a travelling salesman, has murdered his bed-ridden wife following a heated argument. Unable to leave his own apartment, he investigates further using various optical lenses to confirm his theory. Both novel and film explore psychological effects on both protagonist and reader or audience. Displays of claustrophobia, suspense and anxiety are particularly prominent in my personal impressions, from both narrative plot and spatial qualities. It is near-impossible to investigate psychoanalytical effects without mentioning the works of Sigmund Freud. Following his innovative research on the unconscious7 and dreams,8 a key paper I have used is one from 1919, named Das Unheimliche (The Uncanny).9 This recognised phenomenon provides a literary and cinematic analysis to architecture and setting, particularly of the domestic interiors in which both novel and film are set. This feeling of anxiety stems from the fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar, 1 Alain Robbe-Grillet, For a New Novel, (New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1965). 2 Alain Robbe-Grillet, ‘A Future of the Novel’, in For a New Novel, (New York: Grove Press Inc., 1956), pp. 15-24 (p. 17). 3 Ibid. p. 15. 4 Name is reduced to single letter and ellipsis by the author of the novel. 5 Similar to venetian blinds. 6 Francois Truffaut, Hitchcock, (London: Faber & Faber Limited, 2017), p. 214. 7 Sigmund Freud, The Unconscious, Graham Frankland, (London: Penguin UK, 2005). 8 Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, Abraham Arden Brill, (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1913). 9 Sigmund Freud, ‘The Uncanny’, in The Uncanny, (London: Penguin Group, 1919), pp. 121-62.
to which many writers and critics alike have attempted to accurately explain. Freud’s revolutionary writings and research affected the modern world, in all fields of the creative arts. In his 1919 paper, he directly translates from his native German, explaining its literal translation as the “unhomely”, to a more coherent translation, becoming the “uncanny”.10 This psychological phenomenon, similar to the “gut instinct”, can be seen in the Märchen (fairy-tale),11 before a villain is introduced, to a more scholarly analysis in literature such as the short stories of E.T.A. Hoffman and Edgar Allan Poe. It is the omnipresent feeling of dread and suspense, applied to a ‘secure and homely interior’;12 the ‘fearful invasion of an alien presence’13 is lurking around the corner. Focusing only on the literal translation, it immediately generates a sense of discomfort and angst. As the “home” is seen as a place where one can feel at ease, it is unsettling to imagine the pervasion from the unknown entity into where one feels most secure; many individuals have been influenced by the literal translation, placing their “uncanny” scenarios hidden within the security of domesticity, including Robbe-Grillet and Hitchcock. In both novel and film, the atmosphere within these domestic spaces triggers the anxiety of their respective audiences, as will be discussed over the course of the next few chapters.
Giorgio de Chirico, Piazza d’Italia, 1913, (Art Gallery of Ontario, Ontario)
René Magritte, La reproduction interdite (Not to be Reproduced), 1937, (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam)
10 Ibid. pp. 126-32. 11 Anthony Vidler argues the Märchen of the Brothers Grimm is the first appearance of the “uncanny” in Anthony Vidler, The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely, (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992), p. 3. 12 Ibid. 13 Ibid. 5
With focus on art and the influence of Freud’s writings, artists from movements such as the Surrealists were highly driven by the writings of Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, first published 1899,14 when Andre Breton ignited the Surrealist movement in 1924.15 Freud’s writings spoke heavily on the unconscious, and how many terrors stemmed from what we cannot see or access fully. Artists such as Giorgio de Chirico (Figure 0.3) with his metaphysical landscapes and René Magritte (Figure 0.4) choose to represent recognisable subject matter, from arcades of building facades to people, however, they ‘present a world that conforms with the reader’s familiar reality or one that in some way deviates from it’.16 The variety of interpretations of this psychological sensation proves that the “uncanny” is unique to all individuals as our terrors, phobias and unconscious are all different. For this dissertation, I will focus primarily on how the relationship between architecture and anxiety within the two medium is constructed and developed, following a reading of architect Juhani Pallasmaa: a successful story writer and teller ‘turns his reader into an architect, who keeps erecting rooms, buildings and entire cities in his imagination as the story progresses’.17 Literary critic Marjorie Hellerstein states that an audience (of literature or cinema) ‘construct[s] the work by understanding it’,18 also emphasising the importance of understanding the intended narrative – the architecture of anxiety is embedded within the narration, from which I aim to bring to the foreground for discussion. Anxiety is scientifically defined by Freud as ‘narrowness’19 and recognised by the ‘characteristic tightening of the breath’,20 anatomically explaining the shortness of breath, moments after it is triggered. I have selected this particular emotion, over the arguably more commonly discussed claustrophobia or voyeurism, as I see anxiety as a manifestation into the everyday, harboured within any individual. It also can mutate into fear, dread, doubt and nervousness if held for an extended period. The historical and social context surrounding the novel and film shows the rapid changes of their surroundings, which in turn provoked anxiety into ordinary lives. It is with this experience of the new and the unknown that escalated the emotions within regenerated countries. This manifestation of anxiety is a key factor in context of both medium, importantly for both the author or director and the reader or audience alike. I add to Freud’s previous definition: as well as this, the subject is compelled to follow the road of emotion, unwillingly revealing fears and dread, phobias and possibly mild neuroses. 14 Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, 1913. 15 Dawn Ades, Dada and Surrealism Reviewed, (GB: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1978), pp. 168-227. 16 Freud, ‘The Uncanny’, p. 156. Spoken about the ‘many liberties’ of the ‘creative writer’, Freud’s quotation is seamlessly relevant to the artworks of the surrealists. 17 Juhani Pallasmaa, The Architecture of Image: Existential Space in Cinema, (London: John Wiley and Sons Ltd, 1999), p. 21. 18 Marjorie H. Hellerstein, Inventing the Real World: The Art of Alain RobbeGrillet, (London: Associated University Presses Inc., 1998), p. 12. 19 Sigmund Freud, ‘XXV: Fear and Anxiety’, in A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis, (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), pp. 343-58 (p. 2). 20 Ibid. 6
Anxiety in the arts, from the studied word to visual images and film, begins in the unconscious, slowly digging itself to the forefront of the subject’s internal monologue. It is as if the subject, when under the full control of the emotional state, has surrendered their own thought; they are trapped within the cage of their consciousness. It is therefore, in my opinion, unquestionable to regard only the author or director as the sole constructor(s) for the architecture of anxiety within their works. I shall be analysing methods employed by the creator and its subsequent effect on the receiver, to complete the narrative dialogue.
Sectional axonometric, from Karen Bermann’s The House Behind
Karen Bermann in her article The House Behind poetically deconstructs the Anne Frank House, using the technical and aesthetic properties of a sectional axonometric drawing (Figure 0.5). Reinterpreting it as the memorial of bombed ruins of World War II, she also uses it as visual architectural mapping as her analytical narrative travels through the house. Moving ‘[d]own the canal street’,21 the reader enters Prinsengracht 263, led by her narrative to access the secret entrance ‘[b]ehind the hinged bookcase’.22 Bermann seamlessly blends the narrative of Anne Frank’s diary with historical contextual excerpts and phenomenological theory, a perspective of analysis I have been inspired to adopt in addition to my own. She does not constrain to a purely architectural focus, comparing the peeling walls to the oppressive all-seeing gaze of fascism as ‘graphic irony’.23 As the walls part, we ‘pass inside’,24 as analytical journey begins through the thresholds of exterior to interior. My own chapters follow this theme, however I will follow the journey of the view and its optical axis, reinterpreting the “interior” as the consciousness – a vital point of discussion within my interpretation of anxiety. Using sources from film and literary criticism by Steven Jacobs and sociologist 21 Karen Bermann, ‘The House Behind’, in Places through the Body, ed. Steve Pile and Heidi Nast (London: Routledge, 1998), pp. 165-80 (p. 165). 22 Ibid. p. 169. 23 Ibid. p. 167. 24 Ibid. 7
Jacques Leenhardt, phenomenological writings by Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky, and art historical context, I aim to weave together an analytical approach coupled with creative discussion with use of technical drawings, diagrams and artistic references. This range of sources shows the interconnected influence of theories, achieving a broader understanding of abstract concepts that may be better presented than through written analysis. The use of additional readings and comparisons to modern artwork threads together somewhat opposing fields of study which, in fact, complement each other in this investigation as they are all participants and reactors to their contexts. Historical context of the twentieth century is key to understanding the anxiety of the audience for the novel and film during their respective release years. I will explore the overlap of events within Chapter 1, with reference to Georg Simmel and Anthony Vidler’s interpretation of Freud’s Das Unheimliche. In this chapter named “Place”, I will focus on the large-scale location and its key role as the foundation for anxiety woven into the fictional architecture. Chapter 2 places the analytical discussion from the theme of “Viewpoints”, which I have split to the ‘Narrative’ and ‘Physical’. Lastly, chapter 3 will discuss the exterior and interiors of the settings, with focus on the “uncanny” from Chapter 1. The sub-chapters travel between the “exterior” to “interior”, to echo the exchange of sight and vision between the “watcher” and the “watched”. As Chapter 1, an exterior, travels to the interior of the mind in Chapter 2(i), the second subchapter pushes the discussion between both thresholds, finally fusing together for the penultimate subchapter of my dissertation.
Chapter 1: “Place”
LEGEND I. Southwest pillar and its shadow at the beginning of the novel. II. Veranda: 1) Franck’s chair. 2) A...’s chair. 3) Empty chair. 4) Husband’s chair. 5) Cocktail table. III. A...’s room: 1) Bed. 2) Chest. 3) Dressing table. 4) Writing table. 5) Wardrobe. IV. Office: 1) Desk. 2) Photograph of A... V. Hallway. VI. Bathroom. VII. Small bedroom: 1) Bed. VIII. Living room-dining room: 1) Sideboard. 2) Table. 3) Mark of centipede on wall. IX. Pantry. X. Storage room or other (not described).
Plan of plantation from La Jalousie. Original scan from book with added legend
In ‘a house on a banana plantation somewhere’25 (Figure 1.1) Alain RobbeGrillet’s La Jalousie narrates the routine-like schedules of A… and Franck, ‘filtered through a mind distorted by jealousy’.26 The narration, as ambiguous as its geographical location, refers to the hot, humid climate, creating the assumption of an exotic tropical country. The native helpers at A…’s plantation suggest a colonial setting such as the West Indies. Franck’s wife, Christiane, who never visits the plantation, suffers ailments due to her ‘difficulty adapting […] to this hot, humid climate’. She frequently voices her disapproval of A…’s ‘close-fitting dress’27, perhaps as her own suspicions and jealousy of A… and Franck relationship, but disguised as a suggestion that ‘loose-fitting clothes make the heat easier to bear’.28 A… easily shrugs off Christiane’s advice, stating that she handled climates much worse when she was in Africa. As a French writer, the exotic location reflects the colonisation of countries such as French Polynesia, seen by the non-natives as an untouched, un-industrialised land. The shock of the Second World War and its devastating consequences may have influenced Robbe-Grillet to dream up a landscape away from the harsh reality of Europe – a new unharmed Arcadia for his new “literary beginnings”.29 This fantasy arguably reduces the anxiety for the readers of the time, helping them escape into his enticing dream world. However, it is clear from the characters’ repetitive complaints about the landscape that it is foreign to their normal surroundings; the temperature is too high, and the insects threaten to intrude by chirping around the plantation’s protective perimeter. This underlying “otherness”30 may have had the opposing reaction for Robbe-Grillet’s readers. The threat of invading foreigners (the colonisers) carried fearful anxiety, reminiscent of war, overpowering the initial allure of an exotic heavenly escape. The alien danger,31 writes Freud, manifests itself within the home.32 In the same year he wrote his essay, his homeland Austria was forced in splitting with South Tyrol, in northern Italy; ‘his sense of home was itself changing’.33
25 Ilona Leki, Alain Robbe-Grillet, (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1983), p. 53. 26 Ibid. p. 52. 27 Alain Robbe-Grillet, La Jalousie, (New York: Grove Press Inc., 1957), p. 12. 28 Ibid. p. 9. 29 Robbe-Grillet, For a New Novel, 1965. 30 Jean-François Staszak, ‘Other/Otherness’, in International Encyclopaedia of Human Geography, ed. by Rob Kitchin and Nigel Thrift (Oxford: Elsevier, 2009), pp. 43-47. 31 When the “otherness” is understood to be what is ‘alien, strange, and radically different from the “self”’ from Mick Cooper and Hubert Hermans, ‘Honoring Self-Otherness: Alterity and the Intrapersonal’, in Otherness in Question: Labyrinths of the Self, ed. by Livia Mathias Simão and Jaan Valsiner (Charlotte: IAP, 2007), pp. 305-16 (p. 306). 32 Freud, ‘The Uncanny’. 33 Hugh Haughton, ‘Introduction’, in The Uncanny, (London: Penguin Books, 2003), pp. vii-lx pp. xlix-l). 12
Cityscape of Rear Window. Digital frame
In stark contrast to the French writer, Hitchcock’s locations boast ‘a sense of normality’,34 placing Rear Window within a generic North American city, of which the audience has a very limited view of (Figure 1.2). The normality and ordinary nature of the urban landscape, as the residents are filmed during their daily routines, reflects an ‘amusing balance of bourgeois life’,35 but also a representation of the “everyday man”. This separated Hitchcock from other directors of the time, setting their films within ‘dream dwellings […] far removed from [the] harshness of many a movie-goer’s life’.36 However, Hitchcockian plots are not as common as their sets. The director is suggested to have aspired to become a short story writer, ‘in the mould of Dahl’,37 whose thriller, suspensepacked stories also set themselves peculiarly in comfortable, familiar settings. What is introduced as ‘harmless episodes of quotidian life, turns into a labyrinth of fear’.38 Unknown to both audience and characters, the idyllic everyday setting, similar to the cities the audience lived in, lies a hidden, intangible, inexplicable feeling of dread to be revealed; the scene is almost too normal.39 In Rear Window, Jeff’s ‘typical American tenement apartment’40 is placed in an equally typical city. Although at a fictional address as American law prohibits 34 Paul Duncan, Alfred Hitchcock: Architect of Anxiety, (Köln: Taschen GmbH, 2003), p. 14. 35 Pallasmaa, 1999, p. 25. 36 Donald Albrecht, Designing Dreams: Modern Architecture in the Movies, (London: Thames and Hudson, 1987), p. xiii. 37 Seth Friedman, ‘Misdirection in Fits and Starts: Alfred Hitchcock’s Popular Reputation and the Reception of His Films’, Quarterly Review of Film and Video, 29 (2012), 76-94,(81). 38 Pallasmaa, Architecture of Image, 1999, p. 25. 39 This is excellently represented within Roald Dahl, ‘The Landlady’, in Kiss Kiss, (London: Michael Joseph, 1980), pp. 9-18. The tempting warm homely atmosphere entices the protagonist inside, away from the bitter cold night. It is revealed towards the end that the titular Landlady is not as docile as she seems. 40 Pallasmaa, Architecture of Image, 1999, p. 145. 13
the use of real addresses for the happening of crimes in film,41 it is still highly relatable as the specific cityscape is never portrayed. Hitchcock’s origins as a set designer for German film may be the origin for his trademark ‘maniacal interest’ for the way his own sets would be presented on screen within his films. With as much consideration for props and the authenticity for his settings,42 this, like Robbe-Grillet’s descriptive language, is a key similarity between the two works, by thrusting the architectural setting to the foreground, demanding the audience’s attention. On the same plane of focus as the characters and plot, the settings act as if they are secret protagonists in which the other characters can interact with. It is alongside the familiarity of setting and location and representation of modern life that Hitchcock presents a façade of the “uncanny” in the feeling of “modern anxiety”, split into three points of discussion: overcrowding, estrangement and alienation. I emphasise here the importance of the film’s release year of 1954 being only nine years after the War had ceased for the audience. The devastation placed masses in homelessness, mourning and economic ruin. The American civilisation was also recovering from the Great Depression (1929-1941) triggered by the stock market crash, leaving millions unemployed for years to come.43 It would be afterwards that the skyscraper would return as a triumphant, patriotic symbol for the country’s survival through the decades of hardship. Nevertheless, as buildings reached new heights, the cities slowly recovered and ‘disturbingly heterogenous crowds’44 began to inhabit the new spaces, as the city failed to accommodate the rising population. These new great cities blended social classes together, bringing seclusion, discrimination, epidemic and plague. What could have been beneficial for civilisation to live harmoniously with each other, instead heightened the lack of personal relationships developing with strangers. The ‘anonymity of citizens’45 and the fear that any individual could act without being noticed or identified may have caused social unrest amongst the new metropolis, creating the feeling of claustrophobia or “spatial anxiety” between each other, rather than a sense of community. “Modern anxiety” may also be shown in the feeling of estrangement, where an individual of the newly reconstructed city does not feel a sense of belonging. Hubert Dreyfus, who preferred the translation of das Unheimlich to be the “unsettledness”, wrote about how our world will never feel like a “home”, referring to the writings of Heidegger’s 1947 Letter on Humanism: 41 Juhani Pallasmaa, ‘Geometry of Terror: Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window’, in Chora 4: Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture, ed. by Alberto Pérez-Gómez and Stephen Parcell (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004), pp. 211-44 (p. 212). 42 Steven Jacobs, The Wrong House: The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock, (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2007), p. 19. 43 Nicholas Crafts and Peter Fearon, ‘Lessons from the 1930s Great Depression’, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, 26 (2010), 285-317. 44 Vidler, The Architectural Uncanny, 1992, p. 4. 45 Lucy Huskinson, ‘Introduction: The Urban Uncanny’, in The Urban Uncanny: A Collection of Interdisciplinary Studies, ed. by Lucy Huskinson (Oxford: Routledge, 2016), pp. 1-17 (p. 1). 14
‘homelessness is coming to be the destiny of the world’.46 This anxiety of emotional homelessness may stem from post-war shock as many would have found it difficult to be truly comfortable and feel “homely”, exiling them from civilisation. For these individuals, ‘the site of the uncanny was now no longer confined to the house or the city, but more properly extended to the no man’s land between the trenches, or fields of ruins left after bombardment’.47 This feeling of restlessness within the safety of “home” may also result from the ‘uncanny habit of history repeating itself’48, raising fears of more worldwide conflict. This ‘“anxiety of time”’49, as Vidler states, ‘confirm[ed] the impossibility of “living comfortably” in the world’.50
The factor of the repetition of the same thing […] undoubtedly evokes such a feeling […] that recalls the helplessness we experience in certain dream-states. Strolling one hot summer afternoon through the empty and to me unfamiliar streets of a small Italian town, I found myself in a district whose character I could not long remain in doubt. […] I hastily left the narrow street at the next turning. However, after wandering about for some time […] I suddenly found myself back in the same street […] Once more I hurried away, only to return there again by a different route. I was now seized by a feeling that I can only describe as uncanny. – Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny51 The feeling of alienation comes from a reading of Simmel’s The Metropolis and Mental Life, suggesting the problem with modern life is one’s overpowered attempt to ‘maintain the independence and individuality of his existence against the sovereign powers of society’.52 He discusses how an individual accustomed to the life in the metropolis is desensitised and ‘removed from the depths of the personality’.53 This aura of the personality, or essence of individuality, in my reading, leaks out of the individual, feeding the city around them temporally 46 Martin Heidegger, ‘Letter on Humanism’, in Pathmarks, ed. by William McNeil (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 239-76 (p. 258). 47 Vidler, The Architectural Uncanny, 1992, p. 7. 48 Ibid. p. 5. 49 A phrase used by Vidler, which I will be referring to throughout. Ibid. 50 Ibid. 51 Freud, ‘The Uncanny’, 1919, p. 144. 52 Georg Simmel, ‘The Metropolis and Mental Life’, in The Blackwell City Reader, ed. by Gary Bridge and Sophie Watson (Oxford and Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2002), pp. 11-19 (p. 11). 53 Ibid. p. 12. 15
and physically so it can exist. For the city that flourishes with the ‘heterogenous crowds’ to quote Vidler again, the inhabitants are in fact identity-less, reduced to a ‘single cog’54 and a ‘negligible quantity’55 within the scheme of the city. Simmel’s compelling argument links alienation with my first discussion point of overcrowding. ‘In the dense crowds of the metropolis […] one never feels as lonely and as deserted as in this metropolitan crush of persons’.56 In commentary of Freud’s essay, Julia Kristeva identifies that the “uncanny” presents itself in the ‘tranquillity of reason itself’57 where it cannot be escaped. The lack of selfidentity then creates the anxiety of never truly feeling at home or comfortable in the city, knitting together all three aspects of my analysis of “modern anxiety”, as long as we undoubtedly remain ‘foreigners to ourselves’.58 This compulsive counting of trees and repetitive depth of description59 may reflect the idea of a human persona for the narrator, who is more like ‘a pure anonymous presence’,60 with the approach of the compulsive behaviour being an involuntary expression of his own anxiety. As he watches his wife and her affair enfold, his personal anxiety is one of loss and abandonment. The narrator’s obsessive behaviour may be, as mentioned, a consequence of growing jealousy and anxiety of losing his beautiful wife, but as argued by Ilona Leki, he may also possess a ‘fear of dispossession’.61 The plantation is maintained by natives, such as ‘the boy’ who appears to serve A…, setting the table places, bringing food and ice and lighting kerosene lamps at night. The narrator, unlike A…,62 never shows empathy for them, or aids them; to him, they are his inferior. Leki also points out that as a woman, A… is also his inferior and therefore also must be controlled,63 under surveillance from her own husband to be controlled like one of his servants. In Leenhardt’s writing named Political reading of the novel: La Jalousie by Alain RobbeGrillet, 1973, he proposes the narrator as an old-fashioned colonialist in Africa, with his greatest fear being dispossessed of his property, including his wife and
54 Ibid. 55 Ibid. p. 18. 56 Ibid. p. 16. 57 Julia Kristeva, Strangers to Ourselves, Leon S. Roudiez, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), p. 170. 58 Ibid. 59 Also discussed within Chapter 3(i), regarding the narrator’s obsession with geometry and order. 60 In notes of chapter from Maurice Blanchot, ‘The Clarity of the Novel’, in Le Livre À Venir, (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), pp. 159-64 (p. 261). 61 Leki, Alain Robbe-Grillet, 1983, p. 57. 62 She is arguably more socially advanced, with her friendly attitude and retorts at racist remarks. 63 Leki, Alain Robbe-Grillet, 1983, p. 58. 16
plantation alike.64,65 The plan, included only with the translation of the novel,66 depicts the house as a bungalow surrounded by banana trees. The rectangular border of the trees defies organic forms of forests which grow in clusters of rounded shapes huddled together. The plantation is ordered, reminiscent of a grid, perhaps purposely reflecting the urban grid, designed to manipulate and ‘control and manage its citizens’.67 If seen with this “possessive-over-obsessive”, “surveillance-over-voyeurism” interpretation, the domestic structure becomes one of confinement built by the narrator to enclose A…, as if an exhibit in a glass box at an art museum.
64 Jacques Leenhardt, Lecture Politique Du Roman: La Jalousie d’Alain RobbeGrillet, (Editions de minuit, 1973). Translation: Political reading of the novel: La Jalousie by Alain Robbe-Grillet 65 Leki, Alain Robbe-Grillet, 1983, p. 57. 66 Richard Walsh, ‘Beyond Fictional Worlds: Narrative and Spatial Cognition’, in Emerging Vectors of Narratology, ed. by Per Krogh Hansen, John Pier, et al. (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG, 2017), pp. 461-78 (p. 461). 67 Huskinson, ‘Introduction: The Urban Uncanny’, p. 5. 17
Chapter 2: “Viewpoints”
i: narrative viewpoint - “the gaze” [H]ow can objects be seen, described, or even exist if not for man’s perception of them? All objects are seen through human eyes; if man were absent from RobbeGrillet’s universe, there would be no universe. -
Ilona Leki, Alain Robbe-Grillet68
Both novel and film enfold through the eyes of a singular viewpoint, limited in both optical range and spatial proximity. In this subchapter I aim to highlight this key similarity as well as their innovative methods of story-telling through the narrative perspective. To begin this discussion, the chosen viewpoint is key. The mysterious narrator and immobile Jeff are mostly stationary, creating an extremely narrow viewpoint for the audience as we experience the events alongside them. Limiting our focus to only what can be seen from a singular origin heightens the “spatial anxiety” of the reader and spectator, interrupting the comfort of their surroundings with the harassing feeling of claustrophobia. An interesting viewpoint of analysis also to consider is the reminder of the consciousness and how information is interpreted. The process of looking at an object and to understanding it is near-impossible to be unfiltered. We must question the authenticity of the viewer who narrates as ‘the protagonist learns not only how not to be, but how to be. He acquires a consciousness and becomes a person of feeling and imagination’.69 All individuals have conscious thought – Robbe-Grillet’s narrator and Hitchcock’s protagonists all may aim for an unbiased interpretation of what they are seeing, however is ‘emphasized because there is a consciousness to see them’.70 A slow crane shot opens the film, panning over the courtyard and apartments, visually setting the scene for the action to come by showing the ‘architectural organisation’ and ‘spatial relations between different places’,71 (Figure 2.1) giving prior knowledge to the spectator. In Jeff’s apartment, the film shoots the small space like a voyeur into his life. The character is introduced, as we see his broken leg and his apartment, and most importantly, the view out of the large paned windows. Hitchcock utilises his visual way of story-telling to give the audience ‘a lot of information on the inhabitant without any dialogue or voiceover’,72 by capturing the collection of photography equipment and illustrated magazines (Figure 2.2) to embody the character. Jeff finds his most 68 Leki, Alain Robbe-Grillet, 1983, p. 52. 69 Richard Allen and S. Ishii Gonzalès, Alfred Hitchcock: The Centenary Essays, (London: British Film Institute, 1999), p. 24. 70 Hellerstein, Inventing the World, 1998, p. 12. 71 Jacobs, The Wrong House, 2007, p. 285. 72 Ibid. 21
Photo collage to show opening shot. Created on Photoshop, 2018.
Jeffâ€™s belongings. Digital frame
Diagram of apartment and its residents. Drawn and edited on Photoshop, 2018
Miss Torso’s apartment
Dog owner couple’s apartment
Miss Lonelyhearts’ apartment
Alleyway to street
enjoyable past-time to be looking across the courtyard to the resident’s lives opposite (Figure 2.3), to which we are also an audience to – the camera is pointed as if seen through the eyes of Jeff. The audience of the film is now placed in the protagonist’s consciousness; we see what he sees, what he hears and most importantly for the plot, we understand his interpretation of what he sees and how this initial thought of delusion is twisted by clues. As the film records the individual but simultaneous scenes of the apartment opposite, the audience is invited and encouraged to follow Jeff’s thoughts as ‘the innocent and justified pervert’.73 The lack of control the audience has is subtly effective on our reactions, as the viewpoint is dictated by another consciousness, not our own as Jeff is ‘simultaneously a member of the cinema audience and the first-person narrator’.74 What appears as a narrow, limited viewpoint, is further heightened as we join spying into the private lives of others with Jeff, unable to look away as the gaze ‘oscillat[es] between voyeurism and fetishistic fascination’.75 We ‘can no longer think what we want to think’76 as our vision and ‘thoughts have been replaced by moving images’.77 The proximity and layout of Jeff to the apartment is like the construction of the camera obscura, as the window allows the view in. The frustration of the singular viewpoint (being what Jeff sees through his camera lens) traps the audience inside the enclosure of Jeff’s consciousness, as our anxiety grows at the taboo nature of unwillingly becoming a Peeping Tom.
Miss Lonelyhearts apartment
Dog owner couple’s apartment
Section of Rear Window. Drawn and edited on Photoshop and Illustrator, 2018.
73 Julia Kristeva, Abjection, Melancholia and Love, John Fletcher and Andrew Benjamin, (New York: Routledge, 1991), p. 3. 74 Pallasmaa, Architecture of Image, 1999, p. 164. 75 Laura Mulvey, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, ed. by Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 833-44 (p. 841). 76 Georges Duhamel, America the Menace: Scenes from the Life of the Future, trans. Charles Miner Thompson, (New York: Arno Press, 1974), p. 52. 77 Ibid. 25
The apartment across the courtyard to Jeff’s plays arguably as important a role as the house in La Jalousie – without it, the plot cannot happen. The apartment showcasing different lives acts as ‘simultaneously animated theatres’78 echoes the portrayal of A… within the confines of her house. As Jeff’s apartment seems to be upon the second floor, its height gives him the “best seat in the house” (Figure 2.4) to fulfil his voyeuristic tendencies as a photographer and ‘window shopper’.79 Despite his growing obsession with staring out across the courtyard, it is unbeknown to him of what the apartment of the neighbours may represent. The apartment can be interpreted as a visual compartmentalisation of his relationship with Lisa. Undecided about their future, Jeff is presented with different scenarios of the effects of marriage. The excited newly-weds show the imminent moment after marriage, moving towards the husband and wife, happily content with their dog. However, the theatre of lives also poses Jeff as a single man with the chance of younger, attractive females such as Miss Torso, but also ending up lonely and desperate like Miss Lonelyhearts. It is the representation of Thorwald, the salesman, and his wife which is perhaps the most telling; it ‘represents, in an extreme and hideous form, the fulfilment of Jefferies’ desire to be rid of Lisa’.80 In this light, it can be said that the apartment is the ‘site of suspenseful action and as the representation of Jeff’s unconscious’81 as it portrays the protagonist’s own anxiety of marriage, of which he realises that Lisa will leave him if he continues to succumb to his doubts. If the ‘spectator of cinema can become an astute interpreter’,82 we, as the audience, are able to interpret this relationship between Jeff and his neighbours through a different perspective. Whilst the majority of the film takes place through the protagonist’s eyes, he is not able to monitor everything at one time. He falls asleep and also cannot point his camera lens in all directions at once. This alludes to the director’s own role within the film, as he, like Jeff, points his camera with selected direction. Cinema on the screen leads the eye to only what the director wishes to show, almost as if he is the consciousness behind the camera’s gaze. The narrowness initially felt by the audience is now with purpose – created especially by Hitchcock as a cog in his intricate system of anxiety and uncomfortable restlessness. It is he, in fact, behind the directorial camera who forces us to become Peeping Toms, bound to the fictional protagonist by our co-operation in this immoral activity. As the story progresses, the character’s anxiety becomes our own from participation. It is impossible to know how Robbe-Grillet’s narrator can recount his descriptive internal monologues from memory, even if he is the husband and owner of the plantation. Contrary to what the author himself once mentioned (implying the narrator as a jealous husband) it is plausible for our narrator to be, in fact, a 78 Pallasmaa, Architecture of Image, 1999, p. 147. 79 Rear Window, dir. by Alfred Hitchcock (Paramount Pictures, 1954). Said to Jeff by Stella 80 Allen and Gonzalès, Hitchcock: Centenary Essays, 1999, p. 21. 81 Ibid. p. 24. 82 Vicky Lebeau, Psychoanalysis and Cinema: The Play of Shadows, (London: Wallflower Press, 2001), p. 7. 26
different protagonist. Robbe-Grillet’s hypnotic use of ‘restructured chronology; metamorphoses; duplications of themes, characters, events, verbal enigmas’83 is said to leave a ‘hole in the narrated action’, 84 acting as the origin of the narrative viewpoint in the novel. The discussion of the ‘hole’ constructs the architecture of his novel to become adaptable to the reader and his or her individual imagination as an inviting seat to the forthcoming events of uncertainty. The ‘hole’ can be inhabitable by any reader’s consciousness. Robbe-Grillet’s unidentifiable narrator, like Jeff, is limited to his optical range, however does not seem bothered by the obstructed view. It is understandable to forget that the narrator is placed through blinds as his description is so exact. It is revealed that the view is obscured, as A…’s form is ‘highlighted in horizontal strips’85 from her bedroom and reminders of ‘flaws in the glass’86 hiding A… and Franck’s actions. The scenery is ‘cut up’87 into ‘horizontal strips’88 by the slats, with ‘perhaps a ninth’89 of the whole picture visible. He has become accustomed to the segmented vision, as he learns to interpret the missing space with memory or perhaps imagination. However, for the reader, the gaps within the narrator’s perspective also “cuts up” the plantation into more manageable, understandable sizes. It is as if, as the narrator repeats the different scenes with developing detail, the reader can reveal the remaining details hidden in the remaining eightninths that the narrator was initially unable to see by “looking through” the layers of description provided by the author.90 From my reading, I would like to argue that we, as readers, become familiar with his descriptions by his use of repetition. The use of key words only appearing with their associative scenes also trigger our memory, such as ‘veranda’, ‘crickets’, ‘brush’, ‘centipede’ and ‘drink’.91 By multiple cycles of description, we learn more about the plantation, ‘erecting rooms, buildings […] in [our] imagination as the story progresses’,92 to the extent that we become the narrator ourselves: ‘it is a man here, now, who is his own narrator finally’.93 As clear as the narrator’s attempt to represent the pictorial space, his descriptions coincide with the events of A… and Franck. Like the jagged forms of Cubism, the piercing repeated character scenarios infiltrate the narrator’s prose with a similar sense of disjointed time to the Cubists’ representation (Figure 2.5). Reconstructing the sequence of events of Robbe-Grillet’s novel would lead to immediate contradictions within the narration. The author argues the random 83 Hellerstein, Inventing the World, 1998, p. 12. 84 Ibid. 85 Robbe-Grillet, La Jalousie, 1957, p. 24. 86 Ibid. p. 97. 87 Ibid. p. 29. 88 Ibid. 89 Ibid. 90 Leki, Alain Robbe-Grillet, 1983, p. 59. 91 Used throughout Robbe-Grillet, La Jalousie, 1957. 92 Re-citing Pallasmaa, Architecture of Image, 1999, p. 21. 93 Alain Robbe-Grillet, ‘New Novel, New Man’, in For a New Novel: Essays on Fiction, (New York: Grove Press Inc., 1961), pp. 133-42 (p. 139). 27
Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase, (No.2), 1912, (Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia)
chronology is purposeful, asking ‘why seek to reconstruct the time of clocks in a narrative which is concerned only with human time? Is it not wiser to think of our own memory, which is never chronological?’94 It is reminiscent of Freud’s anecdote of feeling anxious and helpless under the influence of the “uncanny”, returning to the same landmark in a cyclical journey with no apparent escape, heightening the reader’s anxiety as our memories become the narrator’s.
[T]here existed for me no possible order outside of that of the book […] the very unfolding of a story which had no other reality than that of the narrative […] functioned nowhere else except in the mind of the invisible narrator, in other words of the writer, and of the reader. -
Alain Robbe-Grillet, Time and Description in Fiction Today95
The cycles of narration are stopped by the sudden paragraph, ‘[n]ow the house is empty’ halfway through the novel,96 which is paradoxical itself; if the narrator is human, the statement removes the presence of himself. The house, represented visually at the start of the novel with similar purpose to the opening 94 Ibid. My own emphasis. 95 Alain Robbe-Grillet, ‘Time and Description in Fiction Today’, in For a New Novel, (New York: Grove Press Inc., 1963), pp. 143-56 (p. 154). 96 Robbe-Grillet, La Jalousie, 1957, p. 60. 28
shot of Rear Window, proves its importance within the plot. May it perhaps be the main protagonist? The house as the novel’s narrator is supported by the lack of personal pronouns of “I” or “me” throughout, the narrative ‘hole’, the supporting characters never mentioning another individual and accounts for the precise, dominating overall description of the plantation. This may be compared to the “uncanny”, due to the lack of identity with the self; the uncertainty of authenticity of the novel’s event reflects the ‘uncertainty of whether or not “I” am truly identifiable with [the] body itself’.97 The house is personified with a voice, however is still an object, therefore providing no trace of presence. Here, the architecture assumes the form of the omnipresent, mysterious, anonymous narrator, voiced and filtered through the conscious mind of Robbe-Grillet himself.
ii: physical viewpoint - windows, doors and everything inbetween Following the discussion of narrative viewpoints, I would like to also discuss the physical viewpoints, or “lenses” through which the narration occurs, as they are both vital in the film and novel. The wooden slats of the jalousie echo the hidden, reclusive nature of the jealous husband, where he uses them to hide from both characters and the reader. In contrast, the titular window in Rear Window is vast and spans nearly the whole wall of Jeff’s living room (Figure 2.6). Here, it shows a much more theatrical appearance, perfectly adapted to film. This is due to a simple detail from Hitchcock’s set design by making all the windows seen in the film match the aspect ratio of the cinema screen: 1.66:1.98 With this wider VistaVision format, the scene seen by Jeff fills the cinema screen, immersing the audience with a demand for the focus of their gaze. There is nowhere else to look; the audience will participate and become Peeping Toms, parodying their own situation in the cinema theatre.99
Titular window of Rear Window. Digital frame
97 Dylan Trigg, The Memory of Place: A Phenomenology of the Uncanny, (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2012), p. 35. 98 Jacobs, The Wrong House, 2007, p. 286. 99 Ibid. p. 27. 29
Hiding in the darkness. Digital frame
Thorwald’s penetrating stare. Digital frame
Windows appear as a dominating motif within Rear Window, as they frame the plot throughout. Unlike the jalousie blind, the windows boast their power of transparency. Jeff uses the darkness further into his apartment to hide (Figure 2.7) from Thorwald’s monitoring look out to the courtyard. The windows either side of the courtyard allow the gaze through, which spatially can be seen as boundaries between the thresholds of Jeff, the courtyard and Thorwald. While the protagonist enjoys the theatre of quotidian life, it seems that the antagonist is the first to react and attempt to stare back at him. This sudden anomaly breaks the routine of Jeff’s voyeurism and he himself suddenly becomes a point of viewing interest. The audience also hides behind the apparent safety of Jeff’s “one-way” window, and when Thorwald is staring at the protagonist (Figure 2.8), we too feel vulnerable and exposed, as we have acted in accordance with Jeff’s consciousness as far. The window has metaphorically shattered. We are not disguised behind its semi-transparency anymore, creating a sudden rush of fear and anxiety while we also stand in the dark beside Jeff and the other characters hoping to not be discovered by Thorwald’s penetrating stare, as the power of the gaze is shifted. The theory of literal and phenomenological transparency is discussed by Karen Bermann in The House Behind,100 with reference to Rowe 100
Bermann, The House Behind, 1998. 30
and Slutzky’s seminal essay.101 Their collaborative essay from 1963 explores the relationship of space in Cubist painting, to where they argue transparency of both literal and phenomenological is best exemplified. (Figure 2.9) Analytical Cubism focused on multi-faceted forms, arguably experimenting with multiple viewpoints, passing of time and the reciprocity of foreground to background, all shown on the singular plane. In Braque’s painting The Portuguese, the guitar playing figure is placed on a mutual plane as the background, with only the chiaroscuro shading of neutral tones differentiating the figure from his setting. The literal transparency it presents is shown by how the reader can merely look and see the two spatial grounds due to the physical transparent body of the figure, as phenomenologically the painting depicts the ‘simultaneous perception of different spatial locations’102 where ‘space not only recedes but fluctuates in a continuous activity’.103
Georges Braque, The Portuguese, 1911, (Kunstsmuseum Basel, Basel)
Whilst arguably our perception in cinema may flatten the appearance of depth,104 the literary language of novels can, create depth in both detail and scenery for the reader. The transparency of the window in La Jalousie may perhaps be a 101 Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky, ‘Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal’, in Perspecta, 8 (1963), 45-54. 102 Gyorgy Kepes, Language of Vision, (Chicago: Paul Theobald and Company, 1969), p. 77. 103 Ibid. 104 Mitchell Schwarzer, Zoomscape: Architecture in Motion and Media, (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004). 31
Mapping of possible viewpoints using narration in La Jalousie, pp. 22-29
Directional narration viewpoint
General narrative description
better example of the phenomenological aspect, as Rear Window’s represents the literal. The physical transparent quality of glass enables the viewer to see the layers behind, while the reverse renders layers on a similar plane, folding and invading the adjacent space similarly to the narrator’s varying, overlapping viewpoints (Figure 2.10) and “male gaze” prying into the privacy of A…’s life. With reference to the previous subchapter, the wooden slats of the blinds are opaque. Using Rowe and Slutzky’s discussion about Le Corbusier’s designs,105 the solid walls allow the viewer to, again, imagine what may lurk in what is hidden. (Figure 2.11) Using this concept, I will discuss a theory of “invisible space” within the next chapter.
Rowe and Slutzky, ‘Transparency’, p. 50.
Le Corbusier, Villa Stein, 1927, (Garches, France)
Chapter 3: “Space”
On the set of Rear Window directed by Alfred Hitchcock, 1954
i: the exterior to the interior, and vice versa A memorable aspect of Rear Window is the setting, as mentioned previously, playing a vital role within the plot itself. The single-set, measuring fifty-five by thirty metres and twelve metres high,106 (Figure 3.1) perfectly supports Hitchcock’s belief that the setting should never be ‘“simply a background”’ but instead ‘“make it work dramatically […] the locale must be functional”’.107 This illusion of depth and proximity, which play a key role in the film’s narrative, could only have been achieved using a single set. As the central courtyard provides a naturalistic perception of distance, it perfectly places Jeff’s apartment seated within the dress circle.108 The huge set also included twelve (out of thirtyone) fully furnished flats,109 therefore increasing the realism of the quotidian life through the characters’ windows. However, as the truth is uncovered, this realism emphasises the contrast to the looming sensation of the “unhomely”, as it can be felt penetrating the miniature community of tenements and realistic representation of domesticity. This dramatic shift in tone and atmosphere may also be compared to the set’s humorous theatrical nature from the film’s beginning, however once the “uncanny” reveals itself, the theatrical set becomes the more sinister Panopticon; the animated boxes of the windows disturbingly reflect the cells of Michel Foucault’s creation (Figure 3.2, Figure 3.3).
106 Scott Curtis, ‘The Making of Rear Window’, in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, ed. by John Belton (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), pp. 21-56 (p. 30). 107 Quoted in interview by Herb Lightman, ‘Hitchcock Talks About Lights, Camera, Action’, American Cinematographer, (1967), pp. 331-35. 108 Commonly the best seating tier in seating plans of theatrical productions. Unlike the stalls, the viewer does not require to look upwards to the stage and is close enough to the action to see. 109 Pallasmaa, ‘Geometry of Terror’, p. 232. 37
Exterior to Interior Plan of Rear Window. Juhani Pallasmaa, 2014.
Miss Torso’s apartment, the sculptress’ apartment (ground floor)
Kitchen window of the Thorwalds, of Miss Lonelyhearts (ground floor), of couple with dog (third floor)
Living room window of the Thorwalds, of Miss Lonelyhearts (ground floor), of couple with dog (third floor)
Bedroom window of the Thorwalds, of Miss Lonelyhearts (ground floor), of couple with dog (third floor)
The plan of Rear Window as Foucault’s Panopticon with section. Sketchup, Photoshop and Illustrator, 2018
Figure 3.3 (below)
Thorwald in the corridor, leaving at night. Digital frame
The apartment opposite, the stage of the suspense, is distorted to layout the optimum perspective for the immobilised viewpoint of Jeff. Often called “railroad flats”, the apartment contains a public corridor running front to back, with access to all the flats on that floor, a common solution in the 1930s for overcrowding in cities such as New York.110 Hitchcock’s set chooses to show the windows of the corridors, kitchens, bedrooms and living areas facing into the courtyard. The layout of the neighbouring flats enables Jeff and the audience to witness Thorwald enter and exit his apartment at night with his sales-case, following the murder of his wife, as he must use the corridor to reach the front door on the other side. (Figure 3.4) It may be argued that Hitchcock intentionally chooses the windows of these three rooms of the neighbours’ flats, to epitomise the quintessential domestic moments of the inhabitants’ lives. The solitude and “spatial anxiety” associated with the prison cell-like boxes of the apartment opposite, are individuals who are now under surveillance by the watchful eye of Jeff as the protagonist, audience member and now surveyor, similar to A… within the cage of her house in La Jalousie. The community of tenements is now compartmentalised, with the other members unaware of the gruesome murder scene in Thorwald’s apartment. With only ‘the side walls preventing [them] from coming into contact with [their] companions’,111 (Figure 3.5) it is almost as if the two-dimensional appearance of the apartment façade visually describes the ominous presence of the “uncanny” as it hides within the normality of life. During the climactic scene of the death of the couple’s dog (Figure 3.6), the female member of the couple shouts to the courtyard, “You don’t know the meaning of the word “neighbour”. Neighbours like each other – speak to each other… But none of you do!”112 This is mnemonic of the ‘anonymity of citizens’113 and the lack of community in the modern metropolis. The theorised “modern anxiety” is heightened in this scene, as Thorwald is the only neighbour absent, sitting in the dark as if ‘blending into the very fabric of the city itself’.114 (Figure 3.7) He becomes the furthest point away from the viewpoint, like the 110 Norval White, Elliot Willensky, and Fran Leadon, AIA Guide to New York City, (Oxford: Oxford University Press USA, 2010). 111 Pallasmaa, ‘Geometry of Terror’, p. 233. 112 Rear Window, dir. by Hitchcock (1954). 113 Huskinson, ‘Introduction: The Urban Uncanny’, p. 1. 114 Ibid. 39
Exterior to Interior
background he tries to blend into. As we look from the interior, to the exterior, then back to the interior on the other side of the courtyard, this darkness engulfs the screen and spectator through Jeffâ€™s optical equipment, triggering the anxiety of the unknown. Here, one could argue also that Hitchcockâ€™s architecture was planned and built for both entertainment and anxiety, as the setting remains the same with only the story it stages changing.
Unaware of murder. Digital frame
The neighbours gather in the courtyard. Digital frame
Thorwald, the monster in the dark. Digital frame
Despite voyeurism being a recurring theme within Rear Window, it must be noted that the apartments are not fully open for viewing. The director exploits the “invisible space” – the spaces not depicted on set, behind opaque walls (Figure 3.8) and off-screen spaces. This appears unnoticeable at first, embedded within the realism of the set design. The “invisible” street, (visible only through the alleyway) (Figure 3.9), acts as a ‘hidden backstage’115 where the tenants encounter the imagined city, but also echoes the hidden backstage of the theatre. Just as Freud’s theory of the “uncanny” comments on the fear of the unknown, Hitchcock’s balance between visible, exterior space through windows and the invisible space beyond the window frames manipulates the spectator’s imagination to visualise the murder which, as always with Hitchcock, happens off-screen. The layout of the “railroad flats” hides Thorwald’s bathroom from the view of Jeff and the audience, as Stella claims that to be where he would have carried out the murder.116
115 116 41
Pallasmaa, ‘Geometry of Terror’, p. 224. Rear Window, dir. by Hitchcock (1954).
Solid walls between window frames. Digital frame
Alleyway to street. Digital frame
Exterior to Interior
The use of “invisible space” may help separate the narrative of La Jalousie, as mentioned previously in Chapter 2(II). Unlike Rear Window, the exterior space of the town seen away from the threshold of the plantation is much more prominent as a trigger for anxiety – however not that of the reader. It is the narrator’s own anxiety, when A… leaves with Franck to town, away from the narrator’s constant surveillance. The narration changes during her absence, as he fixates on the descriptions of the insects and surrounding ecology, as if he is unable to distract his compulsive anxiety of these intruders.117
Geometry as boundaries. Illustrator and Photoshop, 2018
The repeating geometric confidence in narration of the landscaping, the linear plan of the house, to the horizontal slats of the window blind emphasises the narrator’s anxiety to maintain order and control, avoiding (so he assumes) the dispossession of command and authority. It is the overpowering motif of line, that may help distinguish specific threshold boundaries within La Jalousie using the plantation’s succinct geometry (Figure 3.10). What may be described as a ‘“morbid geometralization”’118 of the whole colonial system, the narrator’s ‘fascination with numbers’ and mathematical arrangement overpowers his 117 Robbe-Grillet, La Jalousie, 1957, pp. 71-74. 118 Fredric Jameson, ‘Modernism and Its Repressed: Robbe-Grillet as AntiColonialist’, Diacritics, 6 (1976), 7-14,(11). 42
dismissive interest with the natives themselves. ‘The ego likes to regard itself, Freud says, as ‘master of its own house’’119 – one may argue that the colonial personality reflects that of the ego, developed from adapting to the outside world. It is therefore rivalled by the Id, the primitive knowledge within the unconscious. This may be more than figuratively represented through the organic forms, including the centipede, seen as another insect attempting to infiltrate the house from the outside. In every instance of the manifestation of the centipede within the narrative cycle, the emphasis of the arabesque, curved form is undoubtedly recounted in anatomical detail. He describes the insect’s carcass in the second repetition as clear and ‘outlined without any blurring’,120 but the body is described as ‘convulsed into a question mark’.121 As the fragmented body leaves a stain on the wall, it also stains the obsessive narrator’s template of linear lines and order, as a cruel reminder of the exterior pervading in. Rather than the graphic carcass of the insect however, it is perhaps the curve of the stain it leaves that is the origin of the narrator’s disgust. The centipede, the outsider, defies his grid. This infiltration sets the foundation of the architecture of anxiety for the narrator, growing within his own house, as he senses his feeling of the “unhomely” as the “otherness” breaking through his dominion of colonial power. As well as the narrator’s “male gaze” penetrating the exterior to interior thresholds, Robbe-Grillet’s use of daylight is also subtly used. Light and darkness hold as opposing powers within the world of La Jalousie, as light permits sight to the narrator, but once darkness descends, his fear of the outsiders penetrates his plantation. He is “blind” and therefore vulnerable. The outside biology, normally reduced to sounds heard only in the absence of any other, becomes a ‘deafening racket’ among the now ‘absent banana trees’.122 The absence of banana trees, described frequently in their geometric pattern, is no longer a defence boundary for the narrator in the absence of light to see them. The narrating voice is confident as the light touches on his colonial kingdom, however fear and anxiety haunt him when the sun sets. A…’s bedroom walls,‘like those of the whole house, are covered with vertical laths two inches wide separated by a double groove’,123 similar to the blinds from which the narrator is supposedly placed behind. However, when these windows are stimulated by light (from the sun or a kerosene lamp), the ‘cubical’124 bedroom is decorated with a striped effect from ceiling to floor; ‘[t] hus the six interior surfaces of the cube are distinctly outlined by thin laths of constant dimensions, vertical on the four vertical surfaces, running east to west 119 Huskinson, ‘Introduction: The Urban Uncanny’, p. 3.. She continues later down the page to compare ‘the repressed’ to ‘an intruder in the ego’s ‘house’, or, in more worrying and pathological cases, it threatens to evict the ego from its house, making it altogether homeless.’ It is arguably applicable to the narrator and his plantation. 120 Robbe-Grillet, La Jalousie, 1957, p. 31. 121 Ibid. 122 Ibid. p. 68. 123 Ibid. p. 77. 124 Ibid. Description continues to say ‘[s]ince it is as high as it is wide or long’. 43
Exterior to Interior
on the horizontal surfaces’.125 (Figure 3.11) The presence of light transforms the bedroom, where A… delicately brushes her hair and dresses herself, into the prison cell where she is confined as a rebel to the colonial system. This cubical structure is only revealed through the interaction of the reader and the text, as the plan of the house is merely the top view. It causes a sense of “spatial anxiety”, to place an oppressive style of containment within the intimacy of the domestic bedroom.
Bedroom as prison cell. Sketchup and Photoshop, 2018
René Magritte, L’evidence eternelle (The Eternally Obvious), 1930, (The Menil Collection, Houston)
Exterior and Interior
ii: the exterior and interior, as one The use of blank walls between the contrastingly live entertainment seen through the windows also may perhaps be more evidence of Hitchcock as the real consciousness behind the narrator. It allows the narrative of the tenants’ lives to be broken up, like the blinds of La Jalousie, but used to easier manipulate the audience’s focus to a certain scene. The audience is once again placed under the control of Hitchcock’s gaze, immersed in what he chooses to show (or not to show). As we look through the solid walls, this use of phenomenological transparency allows our imagination to fill the gaps of space, most effectively seen within the work of the Surrealist painter René Magritte.126 In his painting L’Évidence éternelle, 1948, (Figure 3.12) the wall space between the canvases may be seen as the “exterior”, where the painting surface within the frame becomes the “interior”. The use of association and unconscious thought brings the “interior” painting to the same plane as the blank wall space, which is now painted with the unseen areas of the body. Robbe-Grillet’s style of inter-weaving the outside and the inside is among many other elements of traditional narrative to be distorted, warped and challenged. It places well within his chronology, to which the twentieth century started to welcome new philosophical ideas such as phenomenology and artistic movements of Cubism and Surrealism. As phenomenology transparency uses Cubism to visually illustrate its concept, Robbe-Grillet and his New Novel style narrative in La Jalousie can also be depicted by Magritte. If we imagine the nine different repeating scenarios occurring within La Jalousie as the animated theatre screens of the apartment in Rear Window, I argue that the equivalent of the blank space between these windows is the gaps in narration in Robbe-Grillet’s novel. The imagined space becomes imagined text, which, after following the hypnotic ‘enchantment’, we as the reader ‘gradually identifies […] with this gaze and breathlessly follows the slow, tormenting progress of jealousy’127 to the extent that we fill in the gaps in narration on behalf of Robbe-Grillet’s narrator. We must ‘read and see between the lines’, in order to make sense of the somewhat random uses of repetition by ‘finding clues that go beyond what is observed when looking through the shutter of a movie camera or the shutters of the house’.128 The reader is a necessary tool to activate the novel’s content,129 as it is through our own consciousness that the text can begin to build its construction within our imagination. We build upon the foundation of the plan, as we are the constructors and the vital component to the architecture of 126 René Magritte, L’Évidence éternelle, 1948, oil on 5 canvases, (MoMa, New York). As cited in Pallasmaa, ‘Geometry of Terror: Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window’, p. 222. 127 Anne Minor, ‘A Note on Jealousy’, in Two Novels: Jealousy and in the Labyrinth, (New York: Grove Press Inc., 1965), pp. 27-32 (p. 29). 128 Randi Polk, ‘A Mind’s Eye View: Repetition, Obsession and Jealousy in Robbe- Grillet’s La Jalousie and Claude Chabrol’s L’Enfer’, West Virginia University Philological Papers, 54 (2011), 131-37,(134). 129 Hellerstein, Inventing the World, 1998, p. 14. 46
René Magritte, La condition humaine (The Human Condition), 1933, (National Gallery of Art, Washington)
anxiety. This observation embodies the alternative dimension of space of which RobbeGrillet has mastered: a limbo between the conversation of exterior and interior space, to which they exist on the same plane. As seen in Magritte’s La condition humaine, 1933,130 (Figure 3.13) the easel and room exist within the interior threshold, as we recognise the interior side of the window with curtains, and the wooden flooring. Through the window is a landscape with a hillside, greenery and lonesome tree as the focus. In the spectator noticing the floating entity or pale strip of bare canvas interrupting the green grass to the right of the window, we realise the landscape has been ‘reproduce[d] exactly, in its minutest detail’131 within the canvas on the easel. Like with Braque’s Cubist painting, the spectator sees the foreground and background, rendered on the plane on the canvas. The edge of the canvas is hardly visible. If the edge of the canvas represents the boundary of exterior to interior, then with a deliberate movement of the eye, the spectator can interpret the landscape as the exterior view out the window, but also within the interior on the canvas. If we return to the “imagined text” of La Jalousie, the narrator, along with the visible glass through the jalousie blind are placed within the room, stood between the hanging curtains. The repeated scenarios and plan of the house are represented as the “landscape” seen out the window, as the established aspects by the narrator and author. The overlapping 130 René Magritte, La Condition Humaine, 1933, oil on canvas, 100 × 81cm, (National Gallery of Art, Washington). 131 Ben Stoltzfus, ‘Robbe-Grillet’s Dialectical Topology’, The International Fiction Review, 9 (1982), 83-92. 47
Exterior and Interior
section, the canvas on the easel, is the “imagined text” – the reader uses previous knowledge of the exterior “landscape” to fill in the gap (a blank canvas), just as the reader-turning-narrator unconsciously does to fill the blank spaces between the narration. Just as film replaces our conscious vision and thoughts with ‘moving images’,132 the author builds the anxiety to only reveal itself to the reader once we have already embodied the disjointed personality of the narrator.
Duhamel, America the Menace, 1974, p. 52. 48
The architecture of anxiety built from the novel and film begins to form with the inhabitation of the reader or audience inside the mind of the protagonist, narrator and creator. Within the fictional narratives, the responsibilities of these three personas are blended with that of the receiver, as we surrender our identity to that of the characters we are following. The domestic settings place us within a space that is relatable to all, unsuspecting to the “uncanny” alien presence waiting to be revealed. Viewpoints are a key aspect for both protagonist and audience. Escher’s illusionistic representation may perhaps be an unintentional similarity with La Jalousie, for its perspectives and ethereal incoherence (Figure 4.1). As the eye of the “point-of-view” fluctuates with the first-person “I”, our proximity to the plot changes; are we watching A… from afar with the narrator, or so close to her as to hear the brushing of her hair? In Rear Window, the eye and the “I” is shown in the ‘hybrid creature’ of Jeff, ‘half man, half camera’.133 The limited mobility of both protagonists therefore limits our perspective, recreating the narrowness of “spatial anxiety” within our consciousness as we experience the action through these points-of-view.134 The voyeuristic secrecy places us as readers and audiences to the film under tension and unrest, as we risk being caught as unwilling participants to Jeff’s and the narrator’s act. Our desperate need to pull off the jalousie blind to see freely, contradicts our wish to hide from the transparency of the window in Rear Window and the threatening city outside. From the start of both novel and film, the audience does not feel removed from the protagonist/narrator, as our relationship slowly becomes interchangeable from near-identical viewpoints and emotional reaction. I finish the discussion by coalescing the initially separate exterior and interior, to show the thresholds mapped in their spatial dimensions. As to finally fuse them spatially in the mind of my reader, the constructional elements of anxiety from each chapter are assembled; the exterior of the architecture is inside the interior of the mind, assembled onto the plane of the canvas in Magritte’s painting. In this dissertation I have experimented with the art of building a metaphysical structure, framing the provoked feelings of anxiety of La Jalousie and Rear Window using the narrative, differing viewpoints and perspectives, physical replications of the given plan/set design and no doubt influenced by personal anxieties arisen from my analysis. Pallasmaa claims, ‘cinematic architecture evokes and sustains mental states,’135 but I wish to deconstruct and reinterpret his point; the architecture should be that which is so vividly created and distorted in collaboration of reader or audience with author or director that we, as receivers, are able to then ‘invest [our] feelings within the naked structure’.136
133 134 135 136 51
Jacobs, The Wrong House, 2007, p. 282. Hellerstein, Inventing the World, 1998, p. 30. Pallasmaa, Architecture of Image, 1999, p. 7. Ibid. p. 27.
Viewpoints, mixed perspectives and metaphysical representation in M. C. Escher, High and Low, 1947.
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"Alain Robbe-Grillet’s La Jalousie and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window: Constructing the Architecture of Anxiety" A discussion of novel and f...
Published on Jan 25, 2018
"Alain Robbe-Grillet’s La Jalousie and Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window: Constructing the Architecture of Anxiety" A discussion of novel and f...