Friday, October 19, 2007

The Autumnal and Vertiginous in MARNIE

MARNIE is one of those great films that bears repeated viewings. After re-watching it recently and engaging in an exhilerating exchange with another perceptive fan of the movie, a couple of random insights came to mind.

The "Autumnal" Motif in MARNIE
The opening credits feature, against an ivory-colored background, a border of reddish-brown oak leaves. The film takes place in autumn, giving Marnie, in the train station in the opening shot, a chance to wear a wool suit that offers a louche suggestion of pubic hair (in keeping with its vulvic yellow purse - an oberservation that has been made by many). The fox hunt happens on a beautiful autumn day. Placing the action in the fall gave Hitch the opportunity to set various scenes expressionistically in the rain and in a thunderstorm. All of this underscores the the more poignant themes of the movie - loss, decay, sadness.

The "Vertiginous" Motif in MARNIE
Alfred Hitchcock wasn't finished with the notion of vertiginousness when he wrapped work on VERTIGO. Marnie is frequently depicted walking away from the camera into a exaggerated deep point perspective in which focus remains crisp into a point far in the distance. Returning to the opening shot at the train station, the point perspective is created by the rails and trains that flank the scene as well as the dark overhead shelter; the image roughly resembles a large iron cross. This shot, with Marnie squarely at the center, hearkens back to Scottie's dream, which features his head over a similar background. Other shots depict Marnie receding down this vertiginous corridor-like settings. In other shots, she is depicted at the center of a vertiginous whorl. In her mother's kitchen, for example, her close up is framed by the lines of the door and stove in a pattern similar to that of the point perspective scenes.

The expressionistic/psychological effect here is that Marnie is falling away, away from the grasp of those who would advocate for her, i.e. Mark. As a sympathetic audience member, I'm caused to identify with Mark in the same way. (By contrast, Mark is depicted at least once doing just the opposite: on board the ship, when he is searching for Marnie he is positioned on the deserted deck running toward the camera.)

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