I tossed and turned in my bed the whole night with the images of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” flashing in my dreams. Let me make a check to myself: do not watch a haunting movie just before going to sleep.
Rebecca (1940) was remade as Kohra in 1964 starring Waheeda Rehmaan and Biswajeet. Alfred Hitchcock’s first Hollywood movie, “Rebecca” is about a shy woman who marries a rich guy and moves into his big house only to find that her husband and the servants are still in awe of his first wife.
Maxim de Winter (Laurence Oliver), recently widowed meets a young ladies companion, Joan Fontaine. The two ultimately fall in love and get married. They return to his big gigantic mansion, Manderley. The new Mrs De Winters (strangely she does not have a first name) finds that the first Mrs De Winter, Rebecca has a strange hold over her husband and the servants, especially the housekeeper, Mrs Denver. The new Mrs. De Winter finds it difficult to cope with the different lifestyle of the rich as well as the cold and short tempered attitude of her husband who still seem to love his late wife.
She also finds it difficult to cope with the housekeeper, Mrs. Denver (Judith Anderson). Mrs. Denver adores the late Mrs. De Winter, Rebecca and resents the new one. She struggles and succeeds in keeping alive the memories of Rebecca in Manderley. She makes life impossible for the new Mrs. De Winter.
Rebecca is never shown in the movie. She is the central character and is never shown in the movie and yet she manages to create a haunting image by her absence. She can only be imagined from the different conversation of the characters. Everybody describes her having the aura, the class and the mystery associated with her. The judgement about Rebecca character changes from time to time. Hitchcock manages to build a mystery around the unseen Rebecca and at the same time underplays the character and importance of second Mrs De Winter by not even giving her a first name.
Hitchcock manages to keep an eerie atmosphere in the movie. The big mansion, the sea, the fog and the cold Mrs Denver contribute to the haunting nature of the movie. I had to stop the movie and watch something else to stop myself from getting scarred. And of course, the climax with the Hitchcock’s twist in the tale makes it a worthy thriller.
Laurence De Winter does an ok performance playing the widow in grief. Joan Fontaine does an excellent work as the second Mrs De Winter. She is quite beautiful and looks like Nargis (my thoughts). She successfully shows the change in personality by turning into a confident woman from a scared, shy normal woman.
But the scene stealer is Mrs Denver played by Judith Anderson. She plays the cold, strict manipulative housekeeper perfectly. She keeps the legend and the mystery of Rebecca alive long after her death. She manipulates the new Mrs. De Winter into madness. She creates the ghost of Rebecca.
The movie is worth a watch although made in 1940 and also for the fact that it is the only Alfred Hitchcock movie which got an Oscar for Best Picture.