To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Hitchcock's birth in Leytonstone, England, a series of mosaics were commissioned for the entrance to the local Underground Station.
I just saw Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1939) last night after several years. It inspired a few random thoughts. I think you might find them useful, or at least interesting.
During the opening credits, this title appears: "David O. Selznick presents its picturization of Daphne Du Maurier's celebrated novel, Rebecca."
My comment: I'm guessing this was to reassure Du Maurier fans that the film would remain faithful to the novel and a rebuke to Hitchcock, who was sharply criticized by Selznick for for attempting to deviate from it.
During the opening scene, which takes place at the gate to Manderley, the mood is spooky, ethereal, dreamlike. In a voice-over, we hear the unnamed heroine, Mrs. DeWinters, a.k.a. “I” (Joan Fonatine) say, "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.... I stopped at the gate. And then, like all dreams, I was possessed as by a sudden supernatural power and passed like a spirit through its bars...."
My comment: One of the charms of Rebecca is its uncanny tone -- the ghostly "presence" of Rebecca De Winter; Mrs. Danvers' somewhat necrophilic quality; the seeming hauntedness of the mansion, Manderley, itself. Mrs. De Winter is imbued with a sense of the supernatural as well. She passes "like a spirit" through the gate. Later, she enters the cottage on the beach -- with a degree of unusual confidence, as if she had already been there. She also connects with the dog Jasper in ways that suggest her attunedness to that which is beyond the ken of everyday human life -- something Hitch had hinted at earlier in Secret Agent (1936).
With the exception of Danvers, everyone else in the movie has apparently accepted Rebecca's death and is at least trying to move on. Only Mrs. DeWinter seems to be sensitive to her predecessor's lingering presence. Timid though she is, she alone seems to be acutely sensitive to the ghosts that haunt Manderley.
Thought 2.5 -- A question, really.
Viewed from a Jungian perspective, could Mrs. Danvers be seen as Mrs. DeWinter's shadow self? Here's how Dr. Jung put it:
“The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner opposite, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposing halves.”Danvers and the second Mrs. DeWinter are diametric opposites. Where Danvers is antiseptically cold, rigid and uncompromising, Manderley's new bride is all "daisies and rainbows" (to quote Ingrid Bergman in Notorious), collapsing into tears and spasms of joy, all the while compromising herself to the point of total abnegation. So it was fitting that, once Danvers saw her world falling apart, she gave herself over to self-annihilation.
In the car with Maxim in Monte Carlo, "I" says: "I wish there was an invention that bottled up memories...."
My comment: There is. They're called dreams. They're also called movies -- both of which we get to see in Rebecca. Settled into their home routine in Manderley, Maxim and Mrs. De Winter set up a projector and watch home movies that they made during the brief idyll of their honeymoon. Soon enough, though, this pleasant interlude is interrupted when she is discovered to have broken a valuable statuette. The "invention that bottles up memories" works – until reality comes crashing in.
Rebecca is a Chinese box of recollections. Set in a household that is haunted by memories, the above scene fits into the film's structure this way: Rebecca is a film that is also a memory, part of which is another film that is itself a memory.
It has been said that Mrs. Danvers never enters a room, but that, specter-like, she always “appears.” In the second scene at Manderley, we see Mrs. Danvers knock on the door and then enters. So much for that bit of lore.
Maxim's sister comments on Mrs. DeWinter's frumpy appearance, saying, "Maxim is usually so particular about clothes." This could be describing Hitch himself, of course. I find this interesting, because Hitch was almost viciously inattentive to Fontaine during the shooting of the film. His indifference made her feel unsure of herself and contributed to an anxiety-soaked performance that netted her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
After taking Mrs. De Winter on bone-chillingly tour of Rebecca's room, Mrs. Danvers walks over to the window to look out at the sea. She is freeze-framed for just a moment, as the shot dissolves to a view of the waves crashing below. Beautiful. Surreal. Jarringly haunted. Perfect.
I guess that'll do for now.