Rebecca Screen 13 articles

Rebecca

1940

Rebecca Poster
  • There are too many conflicting levels of authorship—between Alfred Hitchcock, Daphne du Maurier, and David O. Selznick—for this 1940 film to be a complete success, but through its first two-thirds it is as perfect a myth of adolescence as any of the Disney films, documenting the childlike, nameless heroine's initiation into the adult mysteries of sex, death, and identity, and the impossibility of reconciling these forces with family strictures.

  • It was a true collaboration, though. Hitchcock knew much about screen language, about the power of the composition and the cut; under his direction, cinematographer George Barnes avoided the excesses of German chiaroscuro yet still evoked an artificial and oppressively stable world, utterly interior, utterly appropriate to the fragile ego of the young bride. But Selznick helped bring luster, seamless continuity, and narrative logic to Hitchcock’s work.

  • Hitchcock’s first US production, ‘Rebecca’ was overseen by the notoriously hands-on David O Selznick, and is somewhat tonally inconsistent; following the social comedy of Monte Carlo and suspense of Manderley, the pace slackens in the crime procedural of the final half-hour, which is all tell and no show. Still, Hitchcock shows superb technical control and attends to his trademark motifs, from monstrous mother figures to the fetishisation of clothing (strong foreshadowings of ‘Vertigo’).

  • Whose film is REBECCA? In later years Hitch was happy to ascribe the movie mainly to Selznick, who certainly oversaw the whole thing and approved every major decision. But you can’t direct by remote control, so a considerable amount of Hitchcock also seeps through. The major stylistic tropes are all Hitchcock’s, such as the confession scene, in which Hitch brilliantly avoids the need for flashback by moving the camera through space as if following the action of a scene that happened a year ago.

  • While it’s certainly true that Rebecca is not vintage Hitchcock, it’s impossible not to be drawn into the spectral presence of the past in the movie’s subtext, as well as the romantic melodrama.... The interiors, photographed in a wonderful black and white chiaroscuro by George Barnes (for which he won an Oscar), take a life of their own, and Hitchcock hints — with his first Hollywood budget — at the sort of technical wizardry that would come to define him in the zenith of his career.

  • Hitchcock needed time to reach his full American self—that waits for the 1950s. But in winning best picture, in getting such a performance from Joan Fontaine (she is better here than in Suspicion, for which she was given her Oscar), and in opening up the paranoia of interior space, Hitch was gaining confidence in the principle that he was more significant than any Selznick.

  • "Master of suspense", sure, though suspense is something Rebecca could use more of. It more established Hitch as a master of masochistic psychodramatic romance—thus the rapturous metaphor of a timid girl who's given no name competing with a "perfect woman" who has a name but is never seen or heard. Only when the plot tries to cram an entire murder plot into the end does it become too tidy. Trust the irrational.

  • Rebecca marks the most decisive single step both in Hitchcock’s career and aesthetic evolution: the move to America, the first time working under (and intermittently struggling against) a powerful and dominating producer, the liberating extravagance of a budget undreamed of in British studios. The experience opened whole new vistas of thematic and emotional expression, stimulating Hitchcock’s professional ambition and expanding his artistic aspirations.

  • When Alfred Hitchcock called Rebecca "a woman's picture" he was cutting it down, but in fact that's what it is — and a superb one at that... He is seldom discussed as a woman's director in any sense of the term. But women have a love for Hitchcock that they often don't feel for other suspense directors. His movies do an uncanny job of tapping into the darkest, toughest and most common female insecurities, something that has helped keep them alive over all these years.

  • This imperfect masterpiece, arguably the very least of Hitchcock’s indisputably great movies, Rebecca does not want for extraordinary passages and images: Mrs. Danver’s unforgettable curtain call brought tears to my eyes. It operates at high altitudes for a good four fifths of its running time, where the air is so thin you can giddily forget the production battles, the heavy weight of Selznick’s “spare no expense” prestige, and the film’s ultimately patchwork construction.

  • It's riddled with dizzying layers of neurosis that are intensified by its very polish. The film taught Hitchcock a key lesson in dissonance and contrast, as the Selznick-ian glamour of the sets and actors heightens our awareness of what's not being directly mentioned: the erotic suppression that drives the narrative.

  • [Mrs. de Winter is] struggling to not just be equal to Rebecca, but to be even seen as a full-fledged woman (Maxim seems more comforted by their age difference and that she remain a big-eyed child). Looking at how women’s power and agency is such a terrifying force to (mostly) men in Rebecca, there are times I feel Rebecca’s fortitude is a continued rebellion – she’s howling from the grave, full of mischief and madness. She’s still upsetting the status quo.

  • Why Hitchcock would not think to label it a mystery is worth exploring—perhaps he considered it so strongly a gothic romance, or perhaps the unhappy experience of making the film, of vying for control with the talented, tyrannical producer David O. Selznick, had left it sidelined in his heart and mind. “Well it’s not a Hitchcock picture,” he told François Truffaut in 1962. . . . And yet it is impossible not to list it amongst the finest works to bear his name.

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