A Forum for and the Background of the Mediation of Dialogue in Ancient and Modern Academies

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Tracing Hitchcock: Rebecca. A Thrilling Fairy Tale

There are very few directors who know how to film children: Truffaut's 400 Blows happens to manifest this virtue (cf. Tarkovsky and Angelopoulos as counter-examples of rather depicting symbols of childhood: a different approach). After having this nouvelle vague intermezzo, the Cambridge Cine-Gang decided to delve into Hitchcock's art and devote a retrospective to his masterpieces: This time we watched Rebecca (1940), which belongs - as well as Notorious - to the period in which he collaborated with the producer David Selznick. This is his first Hollywood film but apart from the American Studio everything else was British: both the mystery novel written by Daphne du Maurier (1938) and the cast. Joan Fontaine plays the young woman without name, who literally takes Rebecca's place after falling in love with Maxim de Winter. Sir Laurence Olivier is Maxim de Winter, who "saves" the young lady from the hands of her intolerable female boss in Monte Carlo only to locate her under Mrs. Danvers' reign, who is the housekeeper in Manderley. It is eight years before Olivier's Hamlet: He is already a delight to watch, directed by another film genius.
During half of the screening I kept whispering: Both are not real persons! They are so pure. They are unreal. How is it possible to bring them into dialogue? In the second half, I was praising Hitchcock to the skies, as we all did: He is splendid! He is brilliant! We get to know Maxim's background story while we begin to encounter the anonymous lady: She initiates her story and we witness this beginning. At the end we are startled when trying to recall her name to no avail. She has no name. The house is the third person, as Hitchcock himself revealed to Truffaut. There is no suggestive threefold division of the house like in the following Notorious (wine-cellar, ground floor and first floor) but the psychoanalytical elements are present nonetheless.
As Hitchcock was engaged further on in Daphne du Maurier (Jamaica Inn and The Birds), he prompts us to read her novels and stories, even if afterwards.
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