House of the Living Dolls: Set Design, the Gaze, and Miniaturization in Hitchcock’s Rear Window

  • Carolina Mesquita Rocha Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Keywords: alfred hitchcock, gaze theory, set design, rear window, auteur theory, voyeurism


Perhaps no film has allegorized the filmgoing experience as succinctly—or as perversely—as Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window; at least in the eyes of film critics and Hitchcockian scholars, for whom the 1954 film synthesizes the director’s enduring fascination with voyeurism by turning windows into movie screens and forcing us, the moviegoers, to see ourselves reflected in James Stewart’s less-than-flattering portrayal of a Peeping Tom. And yet, while it has become the most common interpretation of the gaze and set design in Rear Window, prompting the creation of a rich body of scholarship since the film’s release, the movie screen analogy offers only a fragmentary understanding of Hitchcock’s mise-en-scène and fails to account for the dehumanizing miniaturization that befalls the objects of Jeff’s (and our) gaze. A new reading—one which considers the single-set world of Rear Window as dollhouse-like—serves to resolve said critical gaps.