Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose #9: Last Night I Dreamt (Opening Scene of Rebecca)

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In this opening of Rebecca we get another Hitchcock POV shot.  What makes that even more interesting to me is the way he layers lighting and sound to create movement and emotional shifts.  As the narrator moves down the path, the shadows crawl across the ground in front of her, and in the same direction she travels.  So it’s like they accompany her.  They don’t necessarily seem ominous, though that’s a possibility.  But to me they provide mystery and motion.  And this makes an extended narration not seem static, which is always the danger.  To also break up the scene Hitchcock gives us, at one curve in the path, an almost complete white-out of fog, as if we’re transitioning to another location, but as that fog dissipates, we’re just around another corner.

 

The music in this scene adds so much.  First, as she moves in a dream-like state, we get, of course, a harp sound, which is often used for dreams and altered state scenes.  But along with that is a double reed (English horn or oboe in its lower range).  This instrument is often associated with pastoral scenes, and this makes perfect sense to characterize this dreamy location as deeply rural.  The music tends toward the more mysterious minor mode.  And the music’s leisurely pace matches her slow walk and her dreamy approach.

 

But as Manderley comes into view, the music changes (though not jarringly).  This shift gives us a further sense of movement as we and the narrator approach the house.  First, the music moves more toward the major mode, brightening the scene subtly.  But even more significant, I think, is the introduction of a violin.  This instrument, often used for feminine characters and romance, has the effect also of humanizing the scene (the violin is the instrument that sounds most like the human voice).  So when Waxman, the composer, writes for solo violin just as we see Manderley, it sort of warms the atmosphere.  And this happens as the narrator begins to imagine lights in the window, another kind of human warmth.

 

Of course, the light fades and Hitchcock takes us into the darkened house through a window and onto the turmoil of the sea which is to become so important in the film.  But the narrator’s opening is a masterful moment, and I think shows Hitchcock’s effective collaboration with the folks who do scene design, lighting, and music.

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1.      Describe how this opening is different from the multiple opening scenes you have seen in the Daily Doses from the British silent and/or sound period? 

 

This scene is different from the multiple openings because of the calming narrative voice of Joan Fontaine introducing the first scene; very different from the beginnings in his British films. The elaborate gothic view of Manderley highlights a home/building right from the start, rather than a person or a public place that Hitchcock had highlighted in the past.

 

2.      What are the Hitchcock "touches" in this opening that help you identify this as a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock? 

 

Some of the “touches” I noticed were the dark shadowing effects; the mist/fog in the trail leading to Maderley with the use of POV. Also, the next scene is where I see a more Hitchcock “touch” by placing the main and secondary characters in a more elaborate public setting in a hotel.

 

3. How does this opening sequence use Manderley--the house itself--as a kind of character in the story? What affect does the flashback structure and the voiceover narration have on your experience of this scene? 

 

Manderley becomes alive as Joan Fontaine describes it as being ‘secretive and silent’ as if describing a human being.  The house appears strange and haunting under a moonlit night as the camera approached from the long driveway making me feel that the house will be a huge part of this film especially as we see the damaged Manderley; you almost feel sorry for its condition.

 

The flashback structure and voice over brought me immediately into the film with curiosity and wondering what has happened to the house; to the narrator. So now I want to see more of this film to see how the story progresses. I’m already feeling Hitchock’s intrigue and ‘touch’ right into the next scene as it opens in a grand hotel where some of the secondary characters are being introduced.

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The narration voice over by the Joan Fontaine Character (the 2nd Mrs. Dewinter). Almost with a dream

sequence, introducing us to the isolated, gothic, mansion called Manderley. We immediately realize

that the mansion, will be treated as one of the main characters of the story.

Giving us a true sense of eerie foreboding. Hitchcock uses the camera to pan up the drive

to the front gate. The amazing use of the miniature sets give us a close-up of Manderley.

The lighting in the house making the scene come to life.

 

Also, The use of shadows, fog, mist. The introduction of the two main characters.

He on a cliff, looking down pondering suicide, and she so naïve, and shy, and blonde, which are very

effective Hitchcock touches. We are immediately drawn into the story and want to know more.

 

This is one of my favorite Hitchcock movies. There is none of Hitch's humor, for this is a serious, gothic, romance (almost horror) movie.

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1.     Describe how this opening is different from the multiple opening scenes you have seen in the Daily Doses from the British silent and/or sound period? 

The setting is far from pedestrian and commonplace (as we have seen in the British period films) – it is the shell of a great remote mansion (albeit in ruins.)

2.     What are the Hitchcock "touches" in this opening that help you identify this as a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock? 

Hitchcock touches include the POV dolly shot and close shots of Maxim’s face to visually convey information when the narration stops.

3.     How does this opening sequence use Manderley--the house itself--as a kind of character in the story? What affect does the flashback structure and the voiceover narration have on your experience of this scene? 

Ruins are evocative – they contain the promise of untold stories.

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1. Describe how this opening is different from the multiple opening scenes you have seen in the Daily Doses from the British silent and/or sound period?

 

The most notable to me is the lack of a crowd as was shown and featured in other daily doses....The opening narration of Joan Fontaine and the moving of the camera up the drive...the light and shadow as it approaches Manderley...emphasizing an ominous feel ....the whole opening scene lends to the Suspense...and yes the house is another character in this fabulous movie!

 

2. What are the Hitchcock "touches" in this opening that help you identify this as a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock? 

 

Hitchcocks use of different locales....the South of France...the English Country side....the movement of the camera ....I love the opening scene as it travels up the drive....the shadowing of the scene..filming the back of Olivier and the step forward of his foot on the cliff..Joan Fontaine's voice  the Shout "No Stop!" ...is she the heroine??...Does she snap Olivier out of his potential Suicide...?? Again the build up of Susense

 

3. How does this opening sequence use Manderley--the house itself--as a kind of character in the story? What affect does the flashback structure and the voiceover narration have on your experience of this scene? 

 

I just love the opening of this movie...truly one of my favorites and well deserved for best picture....The house is ominous...what happened to it??? Yes they can never go back to Manderley...but why?...The house truly is the FIRST character introduced in the movie!.The best is yet to come when you meet Mrs Danvers ..she is as intimitating as the house itself...The narration also lends  to the question why can they not go back...

 

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1. Instead of the chaos of a scene in a public place we are introduced to a dark driveway that leads to a mysterious house. It is pretty certain that the commentary, the music and the look of the film on the way up the drive will lead to something important. Manderley becomes an important par of the film in the first sequence. 

 

2. The Hitchcock touch that stands out to me is the mood setting. The mystery surrounding the house and the scene on the cliff where you are introduced to the two main characters leave you with a sense of a partial story. How do they fit together? What part will these two seemingly unrelated scenes have in the telling of the story. The shot of Max looking down at the future Mrs. DeWinter also sets up the dominance of the male leading character. 

 

3. The opening sequence draws you into something mysterious. The dark and foreboding trip up the driveway with the narration that leads you to believe something important happened here and then the cutaway to Max standing on the cliff contemplating suicide. You know the house is important to the story. You are just not sure why.

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1. The British films opened with an active, kinetic scenes in a public places. The quiet, slow, push in on the mansion is a marked departure.

 

2. The Hitchcock touch is present in the opening scene with the narrator's POV as she moves towards the mansion in her dream.

 

3. As for the house itself - I LOVE miniatures. I work in the art department, and would have had a field day working on a set like this. Smart use of the set successfully creates a dreamy, mysterious mood.

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The very beginning of the opening scene of Rebecca lacks the frenetic quality of his British period films.  The slow, controlled tracking shot with Joan Fontaine’s hypnotic voiceover introduces us to a ruined Manderley.  The shot, her voice, and the musical score, imbue sadness and mystery.  Furthermore, the scene anthropomorphizes Manderley.  In typical Hitchcockian fashion, the opening scene guides our emotions. 

Segue from the dream sequence to the camera’s panning across waves crashing on a rocky shore; up to a figure poised on the precipice, dwarfed by the scale of the cliff; close up of an expressionless face; over-the-shoulder to a vertiginous view of waves crashing on a rocky shore; cut to just the feet moving closer and closer to the edge while the score ramps up the mood of anxiety.  A woman’s voice shouts, “No!  Stop!”  And, boom, Hitchcock’s touches invest us emotionally, just like always. 

We’re caught up with this man, the young woman, and a place that sounds like a magic word -- Manderley.  Ensnared by Hitchcock’s genius.

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Well, let's try this again:

 

1. Describe how this opening is different from the multiple opening scenes you have seen in the Daily Doses from the British silent and/or sound period? 

 

This opening is slower paced and for the first two minutes, there are no people on screen.  The previous openings we've seen featured many people in chaotic, public places.

 

2. What are the Hitchcock "touches" in this opening that help you identify this as a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock? 

 

The narration and the house finally emerging from the fog and being illuminated by moonlight after the journey down the long, winding, overgrown driveway identify this as a Hitchcock film. Suspense and secrets abounding!

 

3. How does this opening sequence use Manderley--the house itself--as a kind of character in the story? What affect does the flashback structure and the voiceover narration have on your experience of this scene?

 

The narration specifically tells the viewer that Manderley is a character, "secretive and silent as it had always been".  The drive to the house shows us that we're going on a meandering, dark journey to find out Manderley's secret.

 

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1. The opening scene of Rebecca is different from Hitchcock earlier British films in several ways. First this opening is not taking place in a public place with lots of people about. The first minutes there aren't even any people at all. Then when people are present, it is only 2 and they are the main characters of the story. Another difference is that Manderley is not a place where the average person might find themselves, quite the opposite, it is an exclusive, private place where regular people may not enter. This is the same for the South of France cliff scene. Not many average people would be found on a cliff in the south of France. 

2. Some of the Hitchcock touches I notice in the opening scene of Rebecca are: the camera work, the mood and the use of lighting. The opening scene of moving up the driveway is a definite Hitchcock touch, especially the floating effect through the gate. The camera's slow pan up the cliff to accentuate it's height is also Hitch's touch. The mood of the film is dark from the moment we see the gates of Manderley. It is night with a moon and dark clouds. We move slowly up the drive, as if walking and the trees and plants are dense and uncared for. The whole feeling is creepy. The clever use of the "moonlight" in the windows of Manderley is pure Hitchcock genius. How many of us have walked up to a creepy abandoned house and had the light play tricks on us? 

3. Manderley is established as a character in this story through the use of the opening monolog and the use of the drive and lighting. The audience can tell the house is going to play a large part in the story based on the speaker's words and the amount of time spent observing the house. The voiceover narration is perfect in setting the creepy unworldliness of the scene. Joan Fontaine's voice is disembodied, and almost like a sleep-walker. The audience really feels she is speaking about a dream, even maybe slipping back into a dream-state as she speaks about the dream. Right away we know that this isn't going to be a light-hearted story.

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1) The opening to Rebecca was much different than the others we have seen thus far because of the extensive voice over compliments of Joan Fontaine's character Mrs. de Winter about Manderley. This was a refreshing opening for Hitchcock because it piques your curiosity about what happened to Manderley and it wasn't opening on a spectacle. There wasn't a crowd, or a screaming woman, or a skier, etc. The camera led you down the winding misty path to the remains of a wealthy looking establishment, and then ultimately introduced us to our characters, and their impending interactions, and ultimately connection.

 

2) The visuals are quite extensive and they have an air of mystery about them. The mist and the winding path that lead to Manderley is quite alluring, and surprising. The viewer is ultimately transfixed on the significance of the broken down building. What was its significance? Why are we seeing the remains on an ultimately misty night? Is this a result of an accident? Or was it purposely destroyed? After the shots of the building and we are then greeted by Max and Joan Fontaine's character who apparently prevents him from his suicide. Is he guilty of something? When the camera zooms in on him momentarily it gives off the impression that Max is going to be quite dominant throughout the rest of the film.

 

3) The Manderley is very much a character because of how the opening focuses immensely on the house. The voice over only provides a deeper importance on the events to come. We will eventually learn how this house came to be ruins, and the situations revolving around that are going to be quite important in regards to our characters. Considering Fontaine's voice over taking us to the beginning only to come full circle. 

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First of all, the use of the miniature Manderley mansion is very different from other openers we have discussed. Draws us in.  A woman narrator, too, is new. It feels like the start of a romantic story. Then Olivier on a cliff, then Joan Fontaine -  so dramatic!   Going for the American female moviegoer set?  Probably.  

 

The gothic mansion feels very Hitchcock. Use of light and dark as the camera move up the drive to Manderley.  Dramatic music seems to build and sounds richer in tone here, Another Hitchcock signature, seems to me. 

 

Manderley is a seemingly huge, intimidating structure, full of secrets. Use of light and dark here is really effective.  The narration enhances the scene, making the viewer want to dive into the story. Miss Fontaine's narration is soothing, feminine and even comforting to me. 

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Happy Monday, everyone!

 

First, I want to say that I am a big fan of the novel Rebecca and have seen the film adaptation several times. I would say that this film is closer to other film adaptations of novels from this period, such as Gone With the Wind or Wuthering Heights, than it is to other Hitchcock films we have watched. For that reason, I tend to forget that it was directed by Hitchcock. But the scene in which Laurence Olivier's character is staring into the sea from the cliff above does have a strong Hitchcockian feeling to me. It is reminiscent of scenes from Vertigo involving heights and thoughts of jumping. The particular way that Hitchcock cuts to the character's shuffling feet on the edge of the cliff and has the camera facing directly downwards at the huge drop almost gives me that feeling of "vertigo"!

 

In the opening scene, the way the camera slowly tracks down a shadowy, winding path creates an ominous atmosphere for the audience and a sense of dread. Before we see Manderley, the voiceover of Joan Fontaine's character accompanying this visual "journey" makes us almost fear seeing it, and thus creates suspense for the audience. The way the camera moves is at times shaky, making us feel unsteady as we are forced to enter the gates and walk the winding path. This opening is very different from those we have seen from Hitchcock's British years. This scene is much more isolating, as it has a more gothic influence, whereas Hitchcock tended to start his British films in crowded, public places. Often, even if the film is later dark, a Hitchcock film will open with a scene of enjoyment and recreation, such as a theatre, a music hall, or a sporting event. For me, this opening scene from Rebecca represents a break from this pattern.

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1. The first scene is deserted of people!

    The mood is eerie and calm rather than loud & dynamic.

    A voiceover is a new technique for Hitchcock.

    The scene is outdoors rather than indoors.

    The romantic music functions typical Hollywood score rather than novel counterpoint.

    There's no real humor?

    The scene is a flashback.

 

2. The rolling forward camera shot is typical.

    Having a camera enter the movie through a building's window is typical.

    Roiling seas beside cliffs is typical or comes to be typical.

    Showing our leading man from behind is typical.

    I felt that we were immediately supplied with talismans or motifs for each character-the hat for

    DeWinter and the sketchbook for Joan Fontaine's character.

    I felt that the main character's counterintuitive reactions to each other were typical. DeWinter

    was rude and angry at someone who saved his life and Joan was apologetic and scared. Those

    reactions seemed almost comedic. A violent dislike of each other was typical for romantic pair.

    The use of miniatures was typical.

    

3. The house has a name and is introduced as a sort of living entity that has a character arc

    going from grand and stately to burned out and deserted, i.e. living to dead.

    The house is fondly recalled in memory as though it's a character.

    When she says "you can never go back to Manderley" we realize she's talking about something

    more than a place or a structure- obviously those things can be rebuilt. Makes me wonder if

    Hitchcock is also saying that he can never go back to England. Now he's stuck in America

    dealing with Selznik. 

    Flashback structure and voiceover narration tell us that destruction is coming so then we

    worry for the main character almost from the beginning. 

 

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1. Describe how this opening is different from the multiple opening scenes you have seen in the Daily Doses from the British silent and/or sound period?

 

​Common things I noticed in the opening would be the danger to a character even though in this film it is more implied than actual and there is the girl watching the guy which is much like the crowds watching a sport. The differences is there is a house which is far more center stage than people and there are only two people in the whole opening.  Also no one dies, there is no comedy and other than the voice over, sound seems almost secondary in nature. 

 

2. What are the Hitchcock "touches" in this opening that help you identify this as a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock? 

 

​One touch I noticed right off was the people come off as rather normal.  The nothing special here approach Hitchcock is famous for using in his films. Another touch would be letting the audience in on a secret the charters will not know which is the adventures, love, fun do not last.  This secret may have us root against a character or for another one so we are now set in motion on Hitchcock's own path, not the films or with the characters. 

 

3. How does this opening sequence use Manderley--the house itself--as a kind of character in the story? What affect does the flashback structure and the voiceover narration have on your experience of this scene? 

 

​It all eases you into the flashback itself, it sets the tone this house was once a grand thing though years later whatever happened has been lost allowing nature to overtake it and the film at this point is being told from the female who is doing the voiceover. If we had started out with the two people, we probably even half way through would have hoped the adventures of this house lasted but Hitchcock makes sure we are well aware that is not the case. 

 

​NOTE... I don't think many films give away certain secrets to the audience anymore. Look at West World in HBO and it's vast secrets. If one or two had been leaked on purpose to get the audience to feel or connect with a character, would it be less a great show? I think few directors understand how to use this effectively without destroying the actual film itself. Most audiences also expect to be kept in the dark the duration of the show in order to be surprised at the end. 

 

 

 

 

 

To your point on "Note"; In my view, Hollywood has become entrenched in the tension they want to create with the so called secrets that will be revealed over time. Sadly, it is difficult to pull this off as when you have seen as many movies as I have, all to often, I see these pieces of withheld information quickly and therefore there is very little reveal for me. With your Westworld example, although I enjoy this series, in their effort to avoid revealing the "secrets", they follow threads that, I think could be more interesting and have greater depth if you knew the secret and it was more about where they would go with it.

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1. Describe how this opening is different from the multiple opening scenes you have seen in the Daily Doses from the British silent and/or sound period? 

All of the opening scenes we have seen so far have been public places and have given you a lot of info on multiple characters. For most of the opening of Rebecca, we don't even know who is describing the scene. Also, the previous openings through both visual information and dialog allow the audience to decide how they feel about the characters. In Rebecca, the voiceover narration forces us to experience it as it is described. The main character in the opening of Rebecca is not a person at all but a house. 

2. What are the Hitchcock "touches" in this opening that help you identify this as a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock? 

The Hitchcock touch is mostly the long subjective shots as we approach Manderley. In particular, the shot where the camera moves through the gate. An easier way to shoot it would be to dissolve from one side of the gate to the other. I assume that they built the gate in two pieces on casters, so that it could be pulled out of the way to let the camera through without cutting. Also, there's a shot where the camera passes through fog before you get to Manderlay. Realistically, moving at walking speed from the gate to a house like Manderley would take several minutes, which I'm sure Hitchcock didn't want to be too long for fear of the audience getting bored. The fog gives the impression of more time/distance passing. Another Hitchcock touch is Olivier on the cliff. In particular, the sequence where we see him from the back with the waves crashing on the rocks in front  of him and then cut to a closeup of his lower legs as he inches toward the precipice. Obviously, he is contemplating suicide.

3. How does this opening sequence use Manderley--the house itself--as a kind of character in the story? What affect does the flashback structure and the voiceover narration have on your experience of this scene? 

It definitely sets up Manderley as a more of character than just a place. Also there is a sense of foreboding in the way it is shown and the words that are spoken. The house has been abandoned and the grounds have started to take over it. The narration imagines that lights come on as if the house is alive. It continues to say that the house is a shell of it's former self, foreshadowing that Rebecca is going to be about how Manderley got this way.

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1. Describe how this opening is different from the multiple opening scenes you have seen in the Daily Doses from the British silent and/or sound period? 


The pacing is much slower than Hitchcock's previous movies and there is an absence of the crowd. The crowd's behavior and interaction with one another would move the action or frame the action. Rebecca begins with the monologue of a character. we're getting one viewpoint instead of multiple viewpoints.


It's also a much grander presentation - it looks real - as opposed to the earlier filsm that are more clearly models or graphic representations. The Hollywood budget shows right from the beginning.


2. What are the Hitchcock "touches" in this opening that help you identify this as a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock? 


The play of light and dark images to create an atmosphere of mystery. for example the moving shadows as we travel through the overgrown driveway then the light and dark play over Manderley. In the light it appears to be intact but the dark reveals it is a ruin. Once again, things are not what they initially seem to be.


3. How does this opening sequence use Manderley--the house itself--as a kind of character in the story? What affect does the flashback structure and the voiceover narration have on your experience of this scene? 


The voice over introduces us to Manderley like one would introduce a character. As we wind along the driveway we experience curiosity and expectations of what this place is. The light and dark shadows caress the building as similar techniques would play across the fae of a character. We see beauty and decay, good and bad.


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1. Describe how this opening is different from the multiple opening scenes you have seen in the Daily Doses from the British silent and/or sound period? I would say it's different in the form of the background and the kind of air it has. The opening with the house really does sell this ethereal dream feel about the house and what's around it. It draws you in right there in that moment.

 

2. What are the Hitchcock "touches" in this opening that help you identify this as a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock? I think the almost first person view we get with the dolly moving through the gates and going along the road would identify as one of his touches.

 

3. How does this opening sequence use Manderley--the house itself--as a kind of character in the story? What affect does the flashback structure and the voiceover narration have on your experience of this scene? Manderley is kind of a character because of how the narration and the shots of the house give it meaning. There's a presence and air given around it like a character would have. It's like you're getting reintroduced to someone that you were attached to fondly in the past but you have forgotten.

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Describe how this opening is different from the multiple opening scenes you have seen in the Daily Doses from the British silent and/or sound period? 

 

The film starts as a flashback. The audience knows right away that this experience is something that happened in the past. Visually, we see that Manderley has burned and is no longer what it was in the past. Did Hitchcock use flashback in any of his earlier films? If not, then this is a departure from his usual style.

 

Also the opening shows a rather remote place - not a public place filled with people. The only person in the scene is not visual, just a voice. We don't know who she is or how she's connected with Manderley. However her comments give the viewer a lot of information. Something that Hitchcock likes to do - give the audience information up front.

 

For example, when she says Manderley was "... barred to me" and there were "supernatural powers ... twisting and turning," it's a foreshadowing of the evil she'll experience. However, she also says, "a light shines in the windows" and "natured had encroached and restored..." We understand that somehow things will become "right" in the end.

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1. Describe how this opening is different from the multiple opening scenes you have seen in the Daily Doses from the British silent and/or sound period? 


Rebecca is my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie. The moviegoer can Instantly see The difference is between Hitchcock's British era And his first American movie. Hitchcock brilliantly captures the Gothic Romance mystique from the opening scene.  We get the foggy Gothic estate after the fire. It feels like Poe's House of Usher.  We get  Laurence on the cliff, similar to the famous scene on the cliff from Wuthering Heights. We get the eerie narration and melancholy musical score.  The  Hollywood spectacle epic style of Selznick is apparent. Rebecca to me is a much more introspective departure from typical openings in his British period.  We usually get congested scenes with lots of people such as the ski slop of Man Who Knew To Much,  the inn scene of The Lady Vanishes... here we are caught in the reverie of the 2nd Mrs. Winters introspective thoughts.  Rebecca is so much more atmospheric for me than previous Hitchcock.


I wanted to note that many might not know that Daphne du Maurier actually stole the idea for Rebecca from a Brazilian writer named Carolina Nabuco.  I have read  Daphne's novel many times.. and I love that Hitchcock starts to add his Gothic/Horror touches.   Judith Andrerson steals the show for me.  She is so bizarre and creepy. Love her in this movie.  There is the underlying lesbian subtext as well as she is obsessed with Rebecca. and even opens the cabinet where Rebecca's silk lingerie is fondling it to show the 2nd Mrs. de Winters.    


I agree this movie still has a British feel, esp with Laurence.  But it is much more American in scope and style and also the music score. 


 


2. What are the Hitchcock "touches" in this opening that help you identify this as a film directed by Alfred Hitchcock? 


The opening maintains all the Hitch touches says as the panning down the winding road to Mandalay, the German Expressionist lighting/shadow influences.  The close up of Laurence before nearly stepping off the cliff and the pan to the rocks below.  The awkward young blonde Joan Fontaine.. innocent girl thrown into a dangerous world.  Also the use of narration and the music score setting up the introspective psychology of the main characters. 


3. How does this opening sequence use Manderley--the house itself--as a kind of character in the story? What affect does the flashback structure and the voiceover narration have on your experience of this scene? 


I love Hitchcock's opening flashback It works perfectly for Gothic romance---it sets up the eerie mood of the movie, the sensual hypnotic style.  The tortured soul of Mr. De Winter and Manderley is the broken shell of that emotion.  So brilliant.  Even the narration shows the innocence and purity of the 2nd Ms. DeWinter..... It works so well to set up the mood and characters. It is gorgeous on the silver screen too.  I once had the pleasure to see this on the big screen at the Egyptian in Hollywood.  It was truly breathtaking.. and must have been for early 1940s audiences.  Nothing like it had been seen before..  except Gone With the Wind.. but that had a completely different style and mood.  Rebecca is Gothic Romance at it's very best.   I can watch it over and over. 


I can't believe that Laurence wanted Vivian ...  she was soooo wrong the role.  Laurence is a bit "affected" for me as Mr. de Winter.  I think I might have preferred Leslie Howard... who could pull off the more fragile and vulnerable characters.  But this is truly in my opinion one of the greatest movies of all time.  I highly recommend watching the Criterion collection of this movie to get the full benefit. 


 


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Women's Viewpoint Alert!

As I watched the interesting discussion by our professors, I felt that a woman's viewpoint is really important. DuMaurier's novel and this film are spinoffs of Jane Eyre, a book that is a major formative text for many women, including me. First of all, this film is narrated by a woman and concerns a grand English country house that has been destroyed by fire. Unlike many of our previous films, there is a dream-like quality that emphasizes ambiguity--the house is alive and dead, the narrator is empowered and held back. We learn early that we can't trust what we see. This point is actually an interesting connection with The Lady Vanishes. I think the mood of the opening also looks forward to Vertigo with the fog and eerie narrative of the past. Hitchcock touches include the moving camera that takes the place of the human actor and the dramatic use of light and shadow.

 

The most Hitchcockian sequence is the segment that begins with the roaring sea and pans up to the lone figure of Laurence Olivier who is rescued by the outcry of Joan Fontaine. The camera angles are dizzying and the gradually closing in on Olivier's face is searing. Fontaine appears at an awkward angle from below the spot where Olivier is standing. The framing mirrors his isolation and her anxiety. This scene is very close to the meeting of Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester whom she meets when he falls from his horse.

 

Gender issues are so interesting in Hitchcock. He is known in the popular imagination for being domineering to actors in general and especially to women, but these films often speak very deeply to women. Rebecca draws from a novel by a woman, but I also think the filming shows insight into situations and emotions that women recognize in their own lives. It is often pointed out that Joan Fontaine (who also played Jane Eyre opposite Orson Welles) is far too beautiful to be the mousy and plain narrator of Rebecca. But I think Hitchcock is on to something. The narrator's issue is her insecurity, not her appearance. She is up against the memory of Rebecca's stage presence, not her actual self.

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1) Of course the flashback, but also the lack of either the mundane or the striking (in terms of action). The camera work adds to the dreamlike quality, as does the slowly emotional voiceover. This is an interior view and retrospective, not an external view of events. It is subjective.

Additionally, it follows the Romantic tradition of being out in nature, not in a public metropolitan or village setting.

2) The camera work. Note the ANGLE as the camera moves through the gate--it points downward rather than straight ahead. Also the constant and slow movement of the camera eye from side to side, as if the camera itself had been drugged, weaving its way to Manderlay.

The lighting is very much like the Expressionist work, but with and interesting series of changes between light and dark, indicating simultaneously the surrounding nature (weather/clouds), the psychology of the story to come, and also Hitchcock's evolution of the technique beyond the Expressionist canon.

3) It is an impressive and brooding presence, entered into by a dream, as if (like the castle of Herzog's Nosferatu) it may have no objective existence, or that the objective existence is of no actual importance.

The voiceover narration is emotive and slow. The slowness and length of the narration lends itself, in combination with the pendulous camera work, to a kind of viewer hypnotism.
For camera work, the very torpor and winding back and forth along a path, interspersed with the light and dark of what one presumes to be the influence of clouds, creates a sense of skewed reality. Rather it provokes a distinct sense of unreality, culminating in the appearance of the mansion, and a pan across it to emphasize the ominous and weighty influence it has on the story. For those few moments, it IS the star of the film.

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Hollywood's influence is obvious in this opening scene. Hitchcock very rarely used flashbacks in Britain, yet he begins his career in the US with one. In the UK, Hitchcock's films typically opened in packed public places with light-hearted dialogue. In this one, there is no humor or levity, the first character, bar the voiceover, appears two and a half minutes into the film and the locations are remote and somewhat scary.

 

Rebecca is not only the first American film for Hitchcock, but also one that is not the most characteristic of his style. However, the "Hitchcock touch" is there, with the disturbing shots, the subjective flashback and, more than anything else, the long shot with the cliff and then Olivier's appearance. This shot is, in my point of view, one of the most terrifying and breathtaking in Hitchcock's career.

 

Secondary characters are very important in Rebecca (Mrs. Danvers, Jack Favell, even Mrs. Van Hopper at the beginning), but Hitchcock manages to make a character of both the unseen Rebecca and the house itself. Joan Fontaine's narration and description of Manderley is more fit for something with a soul and powers of its own rather than just a building. Hitchcock's shots and camera movements through the mansion make us correctly guess than the place itself with play a part when the plot unfolds.

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1.       Rebecca opens elegantly, dreamily, in no hurry. A dark, foreboding dream state is created with lots of fog, a “floating” camera, shifting shadows, and Joan Fontaine’s measured narration. Conversely, many of Hitchcock’s British films open with a flurry of activity: the excitable stranded passengers in the hotel in The Lady Vanishes, the lively heckling of Mr. Memory by the rowdy music hall audience in The 39 Steps, the ogling of the dancing girls in The Pleasure Garden. Where The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps have suspense structures that need to pull audiences into their sometimes frantic pace, Rebecca needs to gently take its audience to the memory of a woman who returns in her dream to the almost frightening location of “the strange days” of her life.

2.       One way the opening of Rebecca reveals itself as being directed by Alfred Hitchcock is in the attention given to identification with the characters. Before we even meet the second Mrs. de Winter, we “look up” through her eyes at a silhouetted figure preparing to jump off a cliff. We then cut to a close-up of Maxim’s face, allowing us to connect with his anxiety, and then we cut to a high angle shot looking at the back of his head looking below at the waves crashing against the rocks. We now feel in the position of someone about to jump. Then suddenly the swirl of anxious music stops when we hear a woman’s voice yell “No! Stop!” We see (from Maxim’s perspective) the woman in long shot, then cut to a medium shot, revealing it to be beautiful young Joan Fontaine. A softer version of the mysterious music starts up as the two speak briefly before she follows his orders to leave.

a.       Another way this clip connects with other Hitchcock openings is when the camera magically breaks through the closed gate to Manderley. Hitchcock often begins his films by traveling through a passage, taking us to somewhere we wouldn’t otherwise have been able to see: the lobby in The Lady Vanishes, Marion’s hotel room in Psycho, the courtyard in Rear Window.

3.       We meet Manderley as a place of great mystery, one we’re prompted to want to solve. After wandering through an overgrown path, we discover it in stark silhouette against a cloudy sky, with a leafless tree cutting through the foreground and a gypsy violin on the soundtrack (as if this was a horror film). As the camera begins to move (around the miniature), Manderley still seems in its former glory. But as we slowly move in closer, we see it to be “a desolate shell” of itself. We don’t know what tragedy happened there and the narrator’s voice is calm, so it doesn’t seem to have been recently, but we want to know its secret and why it is so important to her.

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Rebecca is a very intense psychological gothic horror piece.

 

In openings to the previous Daily Doses we see lots of bustling activity. Here we see the iron gates of an estate and creep through them along a winding path towards a mysterious manor. All looks well, with a light shining, but then we see the manor is in ruins. What could have happened to make it such a terrible place? Yet our narrator sounds confident like she has gotten over what has happened and is not afraid to tell her story.

 

The expressionist mood of the "floating" camera is what grabbed my attention. This was followed by Maxim standing a bit too close to the cliff and has us wondering if he is going to jump---and then the girl played by Joan Fontaine shouts for him to stop. The close ups of his face and feet gave us the sense of doom that was ultimately thwarted.

 

Manderley as a character excites us. I used to work in a historic home, and big historic mansions and manors leave people in awe--what kind of people live there, what happened years ago that has left this gorgeous yet imposing place in ruins? The flashback lets us know what twists and turns the story takes, just like the winding road to Manderley.

 

I have seen this before and it is a VERY intense film. The part that always bugged me is that we don't know the second Mrs. de Winter's first name. It drove me mad, why did he never ask her what her first name was?????

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