Rear Window Sandwich

The other day my daughter Lily asked to see Rear Window again and I was happy to oblige. In fact I was thrilled. I’ve seen the film many times. She had only seen it once before (she’s not yet eight, there’s plenty of time).

I haven’t thought much about Rear Window, or read much about it either. I just love it and watch it periodically. This time something caught my eye that I hadn’t really thought of before: The analogy between L. B. Jefferies’ consuming fascination with what is happening outside his rear window and his biological need for food.

Here is the scene that caught my eye:

In the half light of evening we see an image of a half of a sandwich, a glass of milk, and a 35mm SLR camera with a large telephoto lens.

Then we see Jefferies’ hand reach for the sandwich.

From the context we know that Jefferies is sitting in his wheelchair, looking out the window, and looking at his neighbors.

We cut to Jefferies eating.

Interestingly, he holds his sandwich much like we’ve seen him hold his binoculars.

Of course this won’t last for long. He switches out his sandwich for his camera and telephoto lens.

I’m sure someone has written in depth about this already, but anyhow as I see it, Jefferies, being human, of course needs food to sustain him physically, but in the same way, he needs to spy on his neighbors for another kind of sustenance. His obsession with his neighbors, and in particular Thorwald and Thorwald’s wife, provide mental nourishment while he is couped up in his apartment with his broken leg. In this sense his voyeurism, and ours by implication, is really no more unusual than his hunger for a sandwich. It is basic to his nature, almost as though it is biological and involuntary.

But is Hitchcock right to make this connection? Is voyeurism merely biological and involuntary? Or is it a moral issue? Or is it both?

3 thoughts on “Rear Window Sandwich

  1. >I think you’re onto something here, Tuck. I haven’t seen Rear Window in a while, but if I remember correctly there’s also an amusing scene where Stewart is about to eat something but Thelma Ritter keeps talking about where Raymond Burr would’ve had to “cut up the body” of his wife and Stewart loses his appetite (Hitch included a very similar scene in Frenzy as I recall).I believe I’ve read somewhere that Hitch was very fond of food (as is probably best indicated by his rather famous “figure”), so eating turns up a fair amount in his movies. In fact, I think it’s a rather prominent theme in Psycho as well: Janet Leigh eats her sandwich “like a bird” as she talks to Norman in his parlor, Norman eats candy when he gets nervous and Janet Leigh spends the afternoon with her a boyfriend in a hotel room during her lunch break (as a matter of fact, the first line of spoken dialogue in the film is: “You never did eat your lunch, did you?”).

  2. >Damian, thanks for your comments. I have heard of the food connection regard Psycho. In fact, I noticed it the first time I saw it, but didn’t think about it until it was mentioned in one of my film classes. And I’m sure Hitchcock had a food obsession, maybe on more than one level. What always gets me is how subtle Hitchcock can be in the most naturalistic way. Sometimes I wonder if he even thought of these kinds of connections when making his films.

  3. I googled’ sandwich scene in rear window’ and your blog pops up. I’m actually wondering whats inside his sandwich…lol… a bit ham? cheese? eggs? mustard? really curious…back in the days, food are so simple, yet people are satisfied….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s