At one time I was introduced to Hitchcock with Psycho, and I thought – Huh! What’s the big deal. After that I have not gone back to this movie to really figure out if there was any ‘big deal’ with it. However, since then I have watched numerous Hitchcock movies and have liked them – not particularly for technique or greatness, but simply because they are generally entertaining thrillers.
In the last week I watched two Hicthcock movies based on Daphne Du Maurier’s books – Rebecca (1940) and The Birds (1963). I enjoyed watching both – the first one particularly more than the other. I had read Rebecca a long time ago, and it stayed with me for some time – as did another Daphne book: The Loving Spirit. Both stories had a haunting presence, their heroines seized by an invisible force, in one case a dead woman, in another a queer wanderlust.
In Rebecca, a young woman marries a rich widower and comes to his estate, which appears to her a kingdom of the dead wife – someone all servants and guests hold in reverence and cannot stop talking about. She is intimidated with the hold that the dead woman continues to have, and attributes her husband’s distance and distraction also to his love for the first wife (Of course, it is a Hitchcock movie, and you would therefore expect that something else lies beneath the apparent exterior).
The movie is a good adaptation of the text, though I think the tension in the book was far stronger than what the movie was successful in conveying. While in the book, the dead wife Rebecca almost appears like another character, always moving through the shadows, she is almost absent in the movie, except in the obsessive dedication of the housekeeper. Judith Anderson as this housekeeper, however, was positively spooky and did an excellent task with her character. The movie won an Oscar, surprisingly Hitchcock’s only one for Best Film
The other movie, The Birds, was quite horrifying. Classified as an apocalyptic, ‘Revenge of the nature’ film, it showed the unification of bird-kind against humans and the havoc they bring about as they attack a town of Bodega Bay and peck people to death. The movie does not explain what causes this sudden unification or revenge, and does not even give a deterministic end, except an escaping family, running away from a vast spread of birds. The thought that birds, which far outnumber the humans could collect their forces against us, is quite scary. Tippi Hedren, after acting as the heroine of this film, “was riddled with nightmares filled with flapping wings“.
The shots in both the movies are eerie, and in both Hitchcock has used long intervals of silences to create a scary effect. If you enjoy a spooky weekend – here’s your chance to indulge!