Friday, 29 May 2009

Film Review: Rebecca

They don't make them like this any more. Admittedly, there's some good to that, as this aging black-and-white psychological-thriller-mystery-drama has an incredulously drawn out and dull first hour, and so it becomes a really long film once you factor in all the suprising and compelling events of the second hour as well, finally clocking at 130 minutes. The story told is just a good old-fashioned mystery - so why is this, Hitchcock's first American film, so well loved?

It could be the twisting plot, which does have its moments, and the hopes we have for something better for new bride of Maximillian De Winter, who is hopelessly (and annoyingly) out of her depth in Max's vast Gothic house. Together with her we discover the strange obsessions of the occupants of the house, and some irrestible family secrets. Perhaps the main appeal for me though was the way you are gradually drawn in, through the unsettling, down-right morbid reminders of the death of Max de Winter's first wife "Rebecca" that took place near the mansion. Such reminders come around with an odd and unnatural insistency, making us think that the house and grounds themselves are still somehow linked with the dead "Rebecca", especially in one masterful scene when the camera pans across where Rebecca had once walked across the room, following Max's memory of her, as if she is still there as a kind of lingering, bodiless presence.

It is perhaps worth adding that Hitchcock shows how much significance can be attached to the material, for Max's bride (the central character, apparently unnamed throughout the whole film) discovers that everything in the house is connected to a memory of Rebecca, and it is much harder for Max when he is closer to where Rebecca was than when they are far from the events of the past. It is definitely a film where the everyday becomes sinister, but in a different way to say, his classic Rear Window. Here it is because of the link with an unknown past, which has a hold on Max and which is clearly not done with any of the household either.

Recommended if you already have seen some of Hitchcock's later, often better-paced films, and you'd like to try something more unashamedly Gothic yet still with a solid focus on character. It often seems to ask us "What would you do in Max's position? Or if you were his new bride?" and draws us closer and closer to what we feel will inevitably be a very personal disaster for the pair... We could perhaps call it a study on coping with death, or a very specific view of fate actually works. Anyway, enough said by me - anyone else want to chip in on this one?

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