Jeffries' photography equipment quickly helps him to spy on his neighbours' lives while in isolationTWITTER/COLEYYBOY

Picture the scene: you’re stuck inside with nothing to do. While this is an all-too-familiar concept for the student of 2020, Alfred Hitchcock’s exaggerated image of isolation in Rear Window (1954) takes boredom just a little further. We meet L.B. ‘Jeff’ Jeffries, who is confined to his apartment for a week while his broken leg heals. With nothing else to do apart from watching his neighbours, we are taken along on a journey that delves into the lives and secrets of those around him.

The detail of John Michael Hayes’ screenplay creates an intensely personalised narrative. We see and hear only what Jeffries does, almost becoming a character of our own in the film. It is, then, easy to empathise with Jeffries, and even wish for a similar adventure to his. It’s almost the third week of lockdown now, and I feel like nothing exciting has happened for months, aside from a few anonymous Camfess arguments that I’ve enjoyed watching pan out. We have all become desperate for something fantastical – I wouldn’t go as far as murder, but some drama would be nice.

“Should we all really hide away in our rooms until this is over, or is there something to be made of connecting with people through our windows?”

If nothing is going to happen, we’ll have to invent our own stories. Luckily, the courts of Cambridge colleges are the perfect place to do so. Almost exactly as in the film, our windows face one another; with the early sunset, each room (and student within) is lit up for hours. To make this the perfect comparison, my college (Queens’) even has a rooftop garden like Hitchcock’s flowerbeds, in which his neighbour Lars Thorwald buries his dark secret. I have been watching the plants, but so far I can report they seem to be growing consistently.

What about the film’s characters, then? In Rear Window, the neighbours around the apartment complex become defined by their routines, turning into their own tropes. I can’t help but consider the freshers living in the accommodation opposite me in the same way. One girl dances along to an online class in front of her window. Perhaps she is Hitchcock’s character ‘Miss Torso’, a ballet dancer whose elegance is constantly silhouetted by the bare lightbulb she practices beneath. The eternally closed curtains of some rooms also remind me of ‘The Newlyweds’, consummating their marriage for the entirety of the film. Yet I know that these characters are not entirely realistic. The dancer disappears once her class is finished, while the curtains open in the afternoon for a bored and lazy face to peek out and look at the sky. It may be easy to define those living around us by the actions we see, but in real life our characters are not so romanticised as Hitchcock imagined.

The view out of Jeffries' window — not unlike the multiple views out of university accommodationTWITTER/COLEYYBOY

The glorification of everyday life in the film is enhanced by the use of photography. Jeffries’ job is to capture dramatic moments for a local newspaper, but his photographic equipment quickly becomes the way in which he can spy on his neighbours, reducing them to the gossip of tomorrow’s Page 3. Lockdown has turned us into Jeffries, taking photos of what would normally be perceived as mundane, in the name of wholesome memories. Walking down King’s Parade for my daily exercise, I find myself surrounded by disposable cameras; we have come to view ourselves only through the photographs we take of ourselves and each other.


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The normality of isolation and boredom in lockdown makes me wonder just how much everyone else feels like this. Lisa Fremont, Jeffries’ girlfriend, announces at one point that she’s “not much on rear window ethics”. Well, Lisa, neither am I. Should we all really hide away in our rooms until this is over, or is there something to be made of connecting with people through our windows? Perhaps, even as I am writing this, somebody is looking into my room and trying to imagine just who I am. Personally, I’ve been dealing with the fear of being watched like any normal student would; I invested recently in flashing LED lights to draw attention away from the windows around me. Still, in a few weeks this will all be over, and we can get back to our busy, self-obsessed Cambridge lives. Or perhaps we’ll suffer the same fate as Jeffries: a return to a longer isolation just as the first one seems to be over. Either way, I can safely say I’ll be enjoying my view from my rear window a while longer.