Stranger Than Fiction: Rebecca

Today I chose to focus on the film Rebecca. Although Hitchcock himself claimed it wasn’t really a Hitchcock film, and producer David Selznick exercised much control of the film’s production, Hitchcock nevertheless learned many things from making Rebecca, notably: the inherent depths of female psychology and the value of exploiting it in film.

At the pivotal moment in Rebecca, the evil Mrs. Danvers has almost convinced Joan Fontaine’s character to jump to her death. That moment, and Fontaine’s haunting by the ghost of Rebecca, are encapsulated in the 4 of Knives card:

4 knives r.jpg

Using this card as a significator, I pulled a card to examine Fontaine’s psyche at this crucial point, and possibly suggest what she needs to do or would do if Rebecca’s body hadn’t been discovered just then and so broken Danver’s spell on her. The card I pulled was the 9 of Knives Marnie

9 knives marn 2.jpg

First off, it is telling that the card concerns Marnie – a woman wracked with psychological strife and the prime example of the lesson mentioned above that Hitchcock took away from Rebecca. In it, Marnie is forced to shoot her beloved horse Forio. The gun, however, is pointed toward 9 Marnies, newly awoken from nightmares. Marnie’s unloving mother looks on, as Mrs. Danvers to Fontaine. The general feeling of the card is emotional turmoil and self-torment. As for what the card indicates Fontaine needs to do, it echoes what Marnie had to do – namely, kill the thing that gave her pleasure but which was harming her by continuing a negative cycle. Riding Forio the mare gave Marnie hope and a sense of freedom, but it kept her from facing the reality of her life shown to her at vulnerable moments, such as in nightmares. Marnie also uses stolen money to feel empowered, but that kleptomania and money also keep her bridled. The yellow purse she clutches above everything suggests both her fear and Fontaine’s – both women are yellow. That purse contains Marnie’s false identities, just as she and Fontaine’s person are contained – they need to truly break free and become their true selves. For Fontaine to do that, and break the overbearing mother-hold Danvers has on her, she needs to put the thing she loves out of its misery – that is, her husband, Max de Winter. He is in misery, of course, for reasons Fontaine doesn’t properly understand. This has much to do with his own uncommunicated emotional turmoil, but because Fontaine is unable to approach Max directly, she needs to do the most painful thing – kill her own desperate need to be loved, and she needs to do it herself, consciously. Perhaps then, by loving herself first, she can stand on her own 2 feet and move forward doing things for herself rather than riding on the backs of others, trying to steal a sense of personhood from them.

The second card I pulled was to explore the psychological nature of Mrs. Danvers. The card was the 5 of Knives Rope

5 knives rope.jpg

This card represents not only the film Rope, but specifically the malevolent characters of the cowardly Philip and the heartless Brandon. Like Mrs. Danver’s vicarious sense of superiority, being the handmaid to Rebecca, the murderers Brandon and Philip think they are better than the average person, so much better they can murder at whim and get away with it. Philip is highly emotional, while Brandon is borderline insane. They derive an inflated sense of themselves by belittling others. Although not made explicit, the 2 characters – based on the Leopold & Loeb case – are homosexual, indicating something long suspected about Mrs. Danvers, – namely, that her strange bond with Rebecca has to it a sexual element.

I decided to pull a card to describe Rebecca’s character. The card I pulled was the 3 of Cups To Catch A Thief

to catch a thief.jpg

This card fairly clearly indicates that Rebecca was a party girl. She obviously loved glamour, wealth, and indulging in physical pleasures. To Catch A Thief‘s character Francie suggests Rebecca was beautiful but vain and spoilt. The character of Francie’s mother, Jessie, suggests Rebecca was crass, a woman of the world, and pragmatic. From Max’s point of view at least, echoing Cary Grant there on the ground, Rebecca was less a catch and more of a thief. The cat at Grant’s side further intimates Rebecca was catty.

Finally, I pulled a card to describe the overall situation of the characters in Rebecca. the card I pulled was The Chariot 7 Lifeboat

chariot 7 lifeboat.jpg

In Lifeboat, made during WWII, all the so-called Allied-nation characters fight amongst themselves, allowing the Nazi U-boat captain who is ostensibly their prisoner to take charge and lead them into further peril. This rather simply sums up the situation in Rebecca, where Max doesn’t properly communicate with his new wife and she is unable to interact properly with anyone – even herself. This allows Mrs. Danvers to steer Fontaine’s ship. In Lifeboat, the characters have to be stripped of their outward possessions and class delusions of hierarchy in order to properly and effectively work toward a single goal. Similarly, Max and Fontaine must be stripped of their false ideas and social pretenses in order to truly understand one another and form the bond which will see them succeed rather than sink them. Just as Lifeboat began with the Allied ship being torpedoed, Rebecca begins from a dream of the destroyed Manderley; in the end, when Manderley goes up in flames along with Mrs. Danvers, it is akin to the salvation of those at the end of Lifeboat. Finally, The Chariot is about finding one’s own identity, and becoming the person one is in their own life, which is exactly what can be said to happen to Fontaine’s character in Rebecca.

Published by Chas Tringham

Chas Tringham wasn't so much born on February 26 1969, as he was raised in absentia. He is the son of J.J. Bieber and a discounted sack of millet. Chas' mother was 17 years old when she became 18. His parents would never marry, or merry, Queen of Scots, but maintained a close call and the common cold regarding their son's personal acne and professional malfeasance. Growing up, Chas taught those closest to him to resent the trumpet. On or about September 9/11, Chas' step-uncle's memoir, the eminently readable "Chaps", was publicly ignored. The book tells of his/her early dinners and reads it a story before bedtime. Looking back, Chas maintained contacts with his optometrist, who later married two women and an unemployed bird enthusiast. Interested in honkies, soccer, and ice-chests, Chas keeps his aspirations in a sweat sock.

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