On the surface of every movie, there’s plot – a central line of action that determines structure. The plot is often so easily distinguishable by viewers that it is used to summarize movies in TV guides and reviews.
Under the surface, a movie has theme. Theme gives layers of complexity to an otherwise simple story, while also unifying many script elements such as plot, characters, and dialogue. Not always obvious, theme requires focused minds to regard its presence.
Theme as UnityAlfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) narrates the story of a handicap photographer (James Stewart) that suspects a murder has happened after noticing abnormal facts from his living room window. This is the forefront of the movie; its plot. Nobody gets out of the theater not knowing that. Even the preview establishes it.
The theme, however, is subtle. Most people that have watched Rear Window were not savvy enough to grasp what its theme is. Since themes are delicate and subjective, scholars and critics may occasionally debate. But in Rear Window, the prominent theme isrelationship. Even more so than romance, for romance implies good moments. But relationship also encompasses the nitty-gritty arguments, despair, and solitude.
In Rear Window, the apparently disjointed movie is kept together through this theme, which furnishes it with unity.
The romance between Jeff and Lisa (Grace Kelly) is too obvious an example, but even a superficial analysis of some of the neighbors is enough to elaborate the underlying relationship theme: