Thursday, October 18, 2007

Marnie reincarnated! (Thoughts on MARNIE, Part 3)

I see MARNIE’S Mark Rutland (Sean Connery) and Marnie (‘Tippi’ Hedren) as reincarnations (somewhat) of the characters in VERTIGO. Film critic and Alfred Hitchcock historian Robin Wood has pursued this parallel too, but refrained from "pressing it too far." I'd like to go a little bit further.
Judy /"Madeleine" (Kim Novak) originated in Kansas, but wound up in San Francisco, where she took on a new identity with a view to misleading an innocent male, Scottie (James Stewart). Likewise, the peripatetic Marnie ended up eventually in Philadelphia with a new, false identity and a mission to rip off the men in her life.

In a sense, MARNIE picks up where Scottie "rescues" "Madeleine" from San Francisco Bay, whereas Mark "rescues" Marnie from her fate of prison.

Both Scottie's and Mark's attempts to "rescue" their women are expressions of masculine power. (On the other hand, just as "Madeleine's" leap into the Bay was a call for help, pop psychologists would call Marnie's kleptomania a call for help.) Scottie clearly sees himself as a gallant male, chivalrously respecting "Madeleine's" nakedness in his apartment, inviting her to sit by the fire, etc.; likewise, Mark's heroism is more overtly sexually motivated. In both cases, though, their masculinity shows its dark side: Mark rapes Marnie, whereas Scottie mercilessly violates Judy's feminine identity and imposes on her his vision of what it should be.

The big difference between Mark and Scottie is that Mark is "complete" in his masculinity. He runs a thriving business, lives a free social life, enjoys game hunting and can have his pick of beautiful women. Scottie, by contrast, is wounded, unemployed and aimlessly impotent. That's why, when Mark and Scottie were targeted by their women, one emerged as the victim and the other as the victimizer. (Maybe that's the pun: Marnie mistakenly saw her employer as an easy "mark" in a complacent "rutland." How wrong she was!)

Curiously, It was during production of MARNIE and VERTIGO that Hitch had his most difficult off-screen relationships with his leading actresses, situations that mirrored the out-of-control characters that the women played onscreen.

Robin Wood observed that Rutland is uniquely decisive and strong among Hitch's male protagonists. He points out that Rutland's smashing of his dead wife's pre-Columbian vase demonstrates that he is completely free from the past. Again, I’d like to go farther. When Rutland forced Marnie in marriage, he had no idea what the future outcome of that move would be. He likewise didn't care what others, such as Lil, had to say about him in the present. Rutland is completely free of the past, present and future. I'm reminded of the Buddhist monk who was given a beautiful new teacup, who appreciated it all the more because he could already see its future as a bit of pottery smashed into thousands of pieces.

Men may be filthy pigs, but women desire them anyway. Women may be weak and feeble, but men beg before their sexuality anyway. Perhaps the moral of MARNIE is that, at best, men and women have a love-hate relationship. That of Mark and Marnie remains ambivalent, conditional, fragile, contradictory, poignant and very, very true to life.

With pleasure and angst,


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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Joel, what is this "expressions of masculine power" attribution to both Mark and Scottie's actions? I'm wondering, then: what male activity/action wouldn't qualify as "masculine power?" A man walking his dog would qualify in the same way, then? And it needs to be said, at least in Mark's case, that such expressions of power are what end up saving the girl's life since she can't help herself. And please reconsider that Mark does not ride nor participate in game-hunting activities--in fact, he's more interested in the preservation of animal life.