Review: Rebecca (1940)


I don’t ever want a house that big, I’m fine with a small, comfortable house, this makes me weird, I know!

Screenplay By: Joan Harrison & Robert E. Sherwood
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock

I do love me some Hitchcock, but boy was I underwhelmed by Rebecca. It manages to stay in good movie territory, but it does that through sheer Hitchcock suspense, because otherwise this didn’t resemble much of a Hitchcock film. Rebecca is missing any sort of humor, and for some reason the film forgoes emotion and that is its great failing. In all of his great pictures, The Lady Vanishes, Psycho, Vertigo, North By Northwest, etc. Hitchcock doesn’t just give us suspense, great atmosphere and brilliant camera work, he provides the viewer with an emotional resonance through the characters and their actions. This was not the case with Rebecca, a film that was more mechanical than anything else.

I don’t want people to think I am slagging Rebecca off, because it was a well crafted picture. There are some obvious Hitchcock trademarks present. The Manderly mansion is full of atmosphere and a gothic feel that Hitchcock uses to his full advantage. While he doesn’t do anything very Hitchcock like with his camera, it is steady throughout and never a deterrent to enjoying the film. The acting is passable in parts, great in the case of Judith Anderson, but it never dips below the passable line and therefore is something else going for the film. As I said, all of the above contribute to a well crafted film, but the films complete lack of any emotion leaves it at just that, a well crafted film but not a great or memorable film.

Some people may be wondering why the emotion is such a big deal, but I can’t help but wonder why emotion would never be a big deal in a film? It doesn’t need to be loud emotion, or frenetic emotion, merely any kind of emotion. Rebecca is so mechanical in its presentation that no emotion is ever elicited from the audience. The characters going from point A to point B with a twist thrown into the mix at the end isn’t enough to create a great picture. That scenario leaves you with a soulless picture, and that was what Rebecca ended up as, a mechanical soulless picture. All the technique and atmosphere in the world matters for naught when it doesn’t have any emotion to go along with it.

I was surprised to find out that Rebecca ranks as one of Hitchcock’s best films in most peoples eyes, and that it was his only win for a Best Picture award at the Oscars. I think it is a serviceable film that has far more working elements than it does broken ones, but I don’t see the greatness that others do. The usual Hitchcock flare is missing, and the entire picture feels like an exercise in making a film as opposed to a film you want to revisit over and over again. I’m not going to steer you away from seeing Rebecca, because it is a good film and a passable effort from Hitchcock. But, I can’t give Rebecca a ringing endorsement because there is far better Hitchcock out there, like any of the films where he realized that people can be funny or feel emotion.




2 responses to “Review: Rebecca (1940)

  1. Becky Poulin

    Hey Bill, I”ve read rebecca A few times and I really loved it. I”ve also seen the movie several times. After reading your review I have to agree w/ you on this movie, its not like Hitchcocks other films. I always thought Laurence Olivier’s charactor in this movie seemed angry, but w/ Joan Fontaine personally. I felt he really did not like her. I know he wanted Vivian Leigh to play her part, and I think it comes thru in his acting. Just my thoughts of him are real cold. By far Mrs. Danvers was the best one in this movie, I would of been scared to death of her! Later, Becky

  2. Mrs. Danvers was a scary character, and indeed it was the coldness of much of Rebecca that turned me off. It still does, I respect the craft at work, but it comes across as too lifeless for my liking.

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