Tuesday, September 11, 2007

That Dead Tramp Stole My Husband

I think Alfred Hitchcock may have learned everything he knew from Daphne du Maurier.

Alright, I know some of you are getting in a huff over this statement, but it's probably those of you who haven't yet read Rebecca by du Maurier. Hitchcock directed the film adaptation, and when you read the book, you'll know it's a perfect fit. I can't remember the last book I read as fraught with suspense as Rebecca. It's been a very long time since I saw the movie, and about all I could remember was that Mrs. de Winter is a spineless sadsack (portrayed aptly by my least favorite actress of all time, spineless sadsack Joan Fontaine), Maxim de Winter is distant, and Mrs. Danvers is insidious. In fact, the word insidious only begins to approach the dizzying level of creepdom that is Mrs. Danvers. (Judith Anderson as Mrs. Danvers in the movie version doesn't do justice to the skull-faced, vindictive wraith of the novel.)

I know you nay-sayers are asking: How can you compare a book to Hitchcock? What of his cinematography? the atmosphere? those striking black and white shots? Well, somehow du Maurier creates an equally vivid atmosphere with her detailed, flowery descriptions. I also suspect young Daphne's favorite novel was Jane Eyre. You'll see what I mean.

I'm putting the movie back on my Netflix queue for an updated comparison, although I encourage you to read the book before watching the movie. If you've already seen the movie, read the book anyway. I must note that I spent the first two thirds of the narrative ready to pull my hair out over the protagonist's infuriating, self-conscious impotence and the de Winters' complete inability to communicate openly with each other. But I managed to make it through my frustrated fantasies of slapping a large portion of sense into each character, and it certainly paid off. The ending was deliciously gothic--a sort of ominous conclusion/cliffhanger.

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