I am currently enrolled in a Masters of English program through Bowling Green State University and this week we did a film analysis in one of my classes that I wanted to share with you. To begin, we viewed the Alfred Hitchcock version (1940) and later compared to the new Netflix remake of Rebecca (2020).
A young, female is employed to accompany an older woman on a tour of Europe during the postwar era. While vacationing in Monte Carlo, the younger companion is introduced to the lavish lifestyle and a wealthy widower, Maxim deWinter, heir to the Manderly mansion along the English coast. Capturing his affections on walks along the shore and rides through the country in his car, the younger companion finds herself entangled in the world of the wealthy and soon engaged to Mr. deWinter.
After their honeymoon, the newlyweds move to Manderly, and the new Mrs. deWinter must quickly learn how to run a home and staff of giant proportion. This new world she has entered comes with a house manager, the mysterious Mrs. Danvers. Before long, Mrs. deWinter learns that the presence of Rebecca, the first Mrs. deWinter, lurks in every room and every memory of the estate. She tries to adjust to this life, but it seems that Rebecca’s shoes are nearly impossible to fill.
Mrs. deWinter works to uncover the truth of Rebecca’s death and the secrets sewn into the fabric of life at Manderly. In this quest, Mrs. deWinter unleashes a storm of lies, inquisition, and death. A tale of naive love, fear, mystery, and the macabre, Rebecca will always be a haunting tale that challenges the patriarchy of mid century society and the limits of love in the face of scandal.
When I set out to view the 1940, black and white Hitchcock film I was not overly excited. Films from the forties are not the types I sit down and watch. So I came to this viewing with a prejudice and a strong suspicion that I would be bored out of my mind for two hours. However, I quickly became entranced by the intricate details in scenery and wardrobe. I fell in love with the characters and the second Mrs. deWinter was beyond beautiful. Hitchcock’s use of light and Manderly as a character in itself was also brilliantly executed. For its time, this film was a strong production.
The 2020 film was a replica of the earlier edition, but with the challenge of using color there was a pressure to measure up to the extravagance of the 1940 film. Lily James played the second Mrs. deWinter and did so brilliantly. (side note: I also loved her in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society film. She’s definitely typecasted herself for roles of that era.) In so many ways the second film matched the first, but there were additional scenes and a little more sexual innuendo to match the times.
The story of Rebecca is a brilliant tale, but cannot be viewed without noticing that the second Mrs. deWinter never receives an identity. A name is never provided for her and she moves from a nameless companion to a Mrs. fairly quickly. This decision was likely made to show that middle class women had no value in mid century society without a man. And once the second Mrs. deWinter begins to uncover her husband’s secrets the option of divorce is not ever explored. Because it was not acceptable.
In my analysis for school I unpacked these issues and a few others, but I don’t want to bore you with literary analysis. I do encourage you to see for yourself how Rebecca challenges feminist views. There are some articles out there challenging the film and its second production as outdated and harmful to the progressive movement of women, but I am of the belief that the author of Rebecca (Daphne de Maurier ) did not create this tale to glorify the ways of society, but to challenge it, and in doing so she communicated a timeless message about female empowerment.
Check it out for yourself!!
The Ameri Brit Mom