Rebecca (1940)

Another big jump in cinematic quality comes Rebecca, which I quickly realized is an almost identical plot to Paul Thomas Anderson's The Phantom Thread. I was stunned at how much empathy I had for Mrs. De Winter (Joan Fontaine). This is accomplished by giving her clear desires and dislikes in the beginning of the film, then those dislikes return when she gets to Maxim's (Laurence Olivier) mansion, leaving us to know exactly how uncomfortable she feels. It's right on the nose too (something I wasn't too fond of, but may be the key to making this all work): Mrs. De Winter quits on her harsh wealthy boss Mrs. Van Hopper (Florence Bates), and then gets trapped in the same type of world, although the stakes are much higher. Not only does her unease stem from the same causes but the environment in which she's uneasy in is identical.


In many of the two shots with Mrs. De Winter and Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson), I found that Hitchcock likes to put Mrs. Danvers in front of a dark background which is split down the middle—often with a window on the other side to put Mrs. De Winter in front of to emphasize the contrast.


Hitchcock's economy of storytelling is also at work here: in a simple example, Hitchcock starts the next scene with a close up of Maxim's farewell letter, and then cuts to Mrs. De Winter's crying, implying that she read the letter. Cause/effect, action/reaction done at it's best. In addition, we often see her on the edge of the frame to communicate being trapped and scared.


There is at one point a freeze frame of Danvers that dissolves into a shot of the roaring sea—I was not ready for the freeze frame, it was a real risky spot to put it there but nevertheless succeeded in creating an unsettling mood. Another creepy thing Hitchcock does with Danvers at many points in the film is match dissolve her face with foliage, distorting her face into a creepy portrait. Similar technique used in the last shot of Psycho, although that example wasn't disguised as a cut. Lastly: many uncomfortably slow dolly in's do wonders in creating an uneasy mood.


There was another interesting lighting choice that I'm not sure whether it was intentional or not, (not because I doubt Hitchcock but more for the storytelling lining up) but when Mrs. De Winter is trapped by Jack Favell (George Sanders) in her stagecoach, there is a shadow going from his eyes to her breasts, which reflects from the previous scenes of Jack coming on to her. The only reason I question the intention is because Jack finds another motive and abandons flirting with Mrs. De Winter at about this time in the film. If it wasn't Hitchcock's intention, I'll put it in my own films. If it was, I'll put it in my own films.


Always more to discuss but the last thing I noticed was how much cleaner each scene in the film was in regards to Hitchcock's previous. It's noticeable right from the beginning: we establish the characters very quickly and who they are, the relationships between them. We know exactly what's going on and from minute one there is great tension. Each scene in the movie not only progresses the story but progresses the character development and our understanding of what the protagonist is feeling.


All this aside, the beginning could've been edited down a bit, there were some extra moments that would never become relevant later on in the film. Then again, it could be said that that's precisely the point: watching Mrs. De Winter fall down this rabbit hole that gets increasingly deeper, and the beginning is a good contrast to see where she started. Maybe I'm just not the biggest fan of that methodology of storytelling and the whole Mcguffin idea in the first place. I should just give it a rest and call it a great movie.


It was a great movie.

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