When you mention Hitchcock, most people would think of masterpieces such as Psycho, Rear Window, North by Northwest and Vertigo. But Hitchcock has made a lot of underrated masterpieces such as Frenzy, Shadow of a Doubt, and my personal favourite Rebecca. Rebecca is a film that intrigued me from the get go. It is so eerie and creepy and it really gets under your skin. There have been several different versions of the Daphne Du Maurier classic novel, but Hitchcocks's version will always be by far the best. You see two different worlds collide between two people, and how the dark infests into the light, and makes our protagonist lose her innocence.
Here's a quick run down. Joan Fontaine plays the second Mrs De Winter, a naive young woman who has a whirlwind romance and marriage with Laurence 'DREAMBOAT' Olivier aka Maxim De Winter. They return to his manor where he grew up called Manderly, and while all the housekeeping staff welcome Mrs De Winter with open arms, only one makes it clear she doesn't care for her...DUN DUN DUN....Mrs Danvers. She just has these dark eyes which pierce through you and make you feel quite uneasy. She likes to instil fear into people and she succeeds with Mrs De Winter. While the second Mrs De Winter is trying to settle into Manderly she has noticed there is a lot of secrecy in regards to the Rebecca De Winter's death who was the first wife of Maxim. The film pretty much revolves around the secrecy and the uneasiness of the matter.
Joan Fontaine plays Mrs De Winter with such grace and innocence. She is very much a woman on inside but seems to struggles with her sexuality and identity and comes across as a young girl. All she wants is to be loved by her husband and not have to worry about what anyone else thinks about their marriage. But in the back of her mind all she can think about is whether or not people will like her and accept her as much as Rebecca. As the film progresses she does become stronger as a woman. She is still quite vulnerable and when she finds out the truth about what happened to Rebecca from her husband, in some strange way it actually brings them closer. As she gets more and more closer to finding out the truth behind everything she loses that innocence and then she realises how dark and brutal life can really be. You can also see the change in her with just by looking into her eyes. When she finds out the truth about Rebecca, her child like quality disappears.
Laurence Olivier is flawless in this film, what am I saying he is flawless in EVERYTHING. What I dig about his role as Mr De Winter is that while he has that strong exterior and gives people the tough love routine, he is quite the softy. As the film progresses we see him slowly broken down. As a viewer we are lead to believe he is just so heartbroken because of his first wife's death. But as it unravels it isn't a heartbreak that he is trying to repair. It's his life. Every day he is reminded of what happened to her, and he knows the truth, and he is sick of Rebecca's legacy still being active at Manderly.
And here we have Mrs Danvers who is portrayed by Judith Anderson. This is the only role I can remember seeing her in, and man does she nail it. She is stern, and is very emotionless in her expression, her mannerisms and also her tone of voice. Her eyes are just so dead. That is the first thing I always notice about her whenever I watch it. When we are first introduced to her, we just think she is a very stern person who can make you feel on edge, but as the film progresses she will make your skin crawl. You will see her slowly slip into a slight madness at times because of her love for Rebecca. And then more of our story is revealed on how much of a hold Rebecca's legacy has over Mrs Danvers. It is kind of creepy, and I think it remind's me of Single White Female...kind of. While those two films couldn't be more different, just the obsession side of those movies make me feel uncomfortable.
I am struggling a little to write this review, not because I don't have any information on the film, because there is plenty. BUT! This is one film I really do not want to spoil for anyone, because watching it for the first time is one hell of an experience. I had seen a lot of other Hitchcock films before I saw this one, and they are in a lot of cases more violent than Rebecca. While all his other movies are great in terms of suspense, violence, direction, diagloue, Rebecca is just in a different league. It isn't a visually violent film, it just eerie and creepy all the way through. Even though there are several light hearted moments in the film, which do relax you for a little while, you cannot forget the suspense and secrecy which revolves around this film. The dialogue between the characters is extremely well written, very simple and you can work out so much about these characters with such very little dialogue. It's all about what you see in terms of their body language, the way they look at one another, their eyes, EVERYTHING. Now I know I concentrate a lot on these kind of elements when I review a film, because they are extremely important, and people tend to look past them. And tend to review the more obvious elements about a movie.
Rebecca is a film you all need to see and experience. This is my favourite Hitchcock film because while you do not see any violent acts in this, it is all left up to your imagination and at times that can be just as dark as the most visually violent film. I also believe if this film was not shot in black and white, the eeriness surrounding the story wouldn't have been half as successful. This isn't a horror film, but it has a tonne more suspense than a lot of horror and thriller films made today, and a lot of film makers should really take note of this. Don't get turned off this film because it isn't violent like Psycho or Frenzy, because they are totally different movies to Rebecca. And just because this seems to be the lesser known of Hitchcock's films, does not mean it's not as good.