Click on a Theme below to go to a summary of the four posts about that Theme.

Vision, from "Rear Window," a movie by Alfred Hitchcock with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly

Subthemes: Electro-Magnetic Spectrum, Mythology, Specialized Glasses

An Alfred Hitchcock classic, Rear Window focuses on eyes watching: Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly peer intently, obsessively, through the windows across the courtyard at the assorted activities and try to prove that Raymond Burr ghoulishly murdered his wife. Here is one sequence from the movie. Rear Window is well worth watching, including for its Themes of eyesight.

Electro-Magnetic Spectrum: Jimmy Stewart can see what goes on in the adjacent apartments, but he can’t detect body heat or what happens behind walls. What our eyes can see constitutes only a sliver of the vast electromagnetic spectrum. That spectrum includes streams of mass-less particles, called photons, each traveling in a wave-like pattern at the speed of light. Types of radiation along the spectrum are defined by the amount of energy in the photons. Radio waves and microwaves exhibit the lowest energies, microwave photons have more energy, infrared still more, then visible light that our eyes can discern (approximately 380 to 750 nanometers of wavelength), ultraviolet, X-rays, and the highest energy gamma-rays. The visible portion constitutes only a tiny portion of the electromagnetic spectrum – about 0.0035 percent. However, a plethora of instruments allow us to detect the frequencies above and below our tiny slice.

Mythology: Stewart’s private detective friend concluded that Stewart was imagining a crime; the detective tried to disabuse his friend’s presumed myth. Mythology is sprinkled with eyes in many roles. The eye on the United States dollar bill is the Eye of Providence. The Greek monster Cyclops had only a single eye, whereas Argus Panoptes was a many-eyed giant in Greek mythology. The cuegle is a monster in Cantabrian folklore. Walking on two legs and roughly humanoid in shape, it displays three eyes in its head: one yellow, one red, and one blue. The Gorgon Medusa and cockatrices were believed able to turn people to stone with their eyes. In ancient Egypt, the Eye of Horus was a sign of prosperity and protection, derived from the myth of Isis and Osiris.

Specialized Glasses: Eyeglasses can be a fashion statement (think Sir Elton John) or may be protective lenses for certain purposes: sunglasses, welding masks, arc-welders goggles, safety glasses, medical face shields, opera glasses, or protective sports gear such as ski goggles. Other kinds of protective eyewear include swimming goggles, scuba masks, and miners’ visors. They protect against flying objects, harmful liquids, sparks and other risks. The special glasses might be prescription glasses or generic. Jewelers wear loupes and philatelists hold up magnifying glasses.

 

Vision (along with reasoning) plays a key role in this sophisticated murder-mystery film. Jimmy Stewart watches from his back window with increasing horror as he strongly suspects a killing. He couldn’t penetrate the stuffed trunk shipped by Burr but his eyes and wits told him enough to see into the ghastly crime.

If you are interested in further thoughts on the concept of Thinking, consider other subthemes that don’t fit as directly to the poem, painting, rock song, and movie written about in this series. For an overview, this article explains Themes from Art or click on the navigation bar, About.

We invite you to read about other movies discussed on this blog, and their themes. Here they are:

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