Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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Daily Dose #9: Last Night I Dreamt

Scene from Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940)

 

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 in 'Rebecca' was so different than Hitchcock's British silent and sound period because the story begins with a picture of a place we soon find out is named Manderley. The voice is describing the road leading up to this place as well as describing this beautiful yet creep scene. A scene that she was daydreaming about.

 

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

 

The winding roads that look like they needed repair and the vegetation around it with this huge Victorian spooky looking house in the back ground all seem to be Hitchcock touches in this film.

 

 

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? 

 

At the end of the road that leads up to Manderley sits this large house that makes you wonder who lives or lived in it and who the inhabitants were to live so far out of the way. The long winding roads that took so long to drive up to it. The house presents an errie feeling as well when you think about what has happened in this place that projects a rugged view of a unkept area. And why is this woman dreaming about it. What was her connection to this house.

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This opening is different from the other opening scenes because the main focus or character is not a group of people or even people at all, it is a house. The house is presented as if it were another character in the film. The narration begins in the past and without noticing, the ocean and narrator have made the transition to the present where she meets the owner of Mandalay, the house she is telling the audience about.

 

The eerie sky with clouded moon, the ominous ocean swirling below is threatening, the barred gate and the strange path to the house and finally the man looking down into another swirling ocean probably contemplating suicide all make the audience fearful from the first scene is part of the Hitchcock touch. Also the POV. We feel we are walking with the narrator as she moves up to and past the gate to see Mandalay. We also have that point of view shot as we peer down into the ocean as if we were the man on the cliff.

 

The opening sequence is very film noir using narration as well as shadowy, threatening dark scenes creating a fearful atmosphere. The house is the center of the narrators focus as if it were as important as any character will be. The audience knows right away that this house is a huge part of what will happen and has a great effect on the narrator. The house appears to be as normal as a huge mansion that looms in the distance but then she exposes that it was just the moon light and clouds and we realize the house is just an empty shell and leaves us in the audience fearful and wanting to know how it ended up that way.   

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1. The opening to Rebecca is different in several ways from the openings we've seen previously. Not a crowded public place, but rather a dilapidated mansion. The camera moves slowly (like a supernatural spirit) matching the narration of a single POV character. The introduction of the two main characters is also different in that one is in immediate danger (potential cliff jumper), rather than a frivolous public crowd scene.


 


2.  Hitchcock touches include the titled camera angle of the man on the cliff, the POV dolly shots that match the VO character is walking down the path to the house, the close ups of the mans shoes at the edge of the cliff and the back of his head. The music motif also switches and changes when Hitch wants us to focus or be distracted.


 


3.  The mansion, Manderley, is a character because the POV character has such a vivid recollection of what used to be and the state of dilapidation that is currently being witnessed. She makes us want to see the house as it was, and be in her shoes.


 


 


 


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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? 


It's much mellower.  Only two characters, and in a desolate place.  There are no frantic movements or sounds.


 


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


There is an element of suspense.  You know something has happened there, and something has happened to the main character, but you don't know what yet. In this opening scene, Hitchcock even shows you the part of Manderley that has been gutted by the fire.  He's giving you a lot of information early on, even if it doesn't all make sense to the viewer yet.


 


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 house is a character in the story.  From the opening sequence, you get a sense of the house itself, and what you may expect to feel if you visited there.  You van feel it's history, and energies.


 


 


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This opening is very different from the previous British films by Hitchcock.  You immediately notice the quality of the film is much higher than the British films and once you see the gates and, then, Manderley you know the budget was obviously much higher.  The mood of this opening is immediately dark, gothic, foggy, sinister, and foreboding, similar to "The Lodger," but very different from most of the other films, such as "The Pleasure Garden," "The 39 Steps," "The Lady Vanishes," and "The Man Who Knew Too Much."  It is lonely and abandoned which is totally unlike the public places, crowds, and noisy fast-paced action of the previous openings.  This has an extremely slow, meandering pace (and slow moody music) with a slow, almost groggy/dreamy narration (the voiceover is also totally different from any of the other openings.  The very beginning of the opening doesn't present any characters except Manderley and the unseen narrator.  It also doesn't show any action or crime, but you feel a foreboding or dread.  And, finally, it doesn't have any comedic aspects that were present in the previous British film openings.

 

There are many examples of the "Hitchcock Touch" in this opening.  Immediately, you notice the dark, foggy, sinister gothic mood (Hitchcock is great at atmosphere)!  And you "feel" that mood.  There is a feeling of dread, foreboding, and apprehension.  When you finally see Olivier and Fontaine, you immediately feel concerned for them, especially Fontaine who appears so meek and ordinary.  Hitchcock wanted your feelings to be totally involved in the film.  He also liked to present ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.  Fontaine appears very ordinary in the opening and, from the narration, we anticipate something extraordinary is going to happen to her.  We also feel a potential romance at their first meeting (helped by the romantic music and beautiful scenery).  You already get the feeling that the location is more than just a backdrop, the cliffs and crashing waves (and, of course, Manderley) all will figure prominently in the story.  Also, the POV shots and camera angles in this opening are clearly a "Hitchcock Touch."  He also liked to provide information to the audience that the characters don't know and this is evident in the beginning "dream" section of the opening.  We already know that something is going to happen to destroy Manderley.

 

Manderley is definitely a character in this story.  In the voiceover narration, she refers to the house, and introduces it to us, as if it is a person (with a face and feelings).  Actually, it seems that the only real character information provided in this opening is about Manderley.  While some of that information is provided in the narration, the majority is provided visually with the almost totally overgrown drive, dark forbidding atmosphere, the large ornate exterior, and, eventually, the destroyed burned-out shell.

 

The beginning of this opening, with the voiceover narration, is actually presenting our advance knowledge about the end result of the story (i.e., the destruction of Manderley).  Then, we flashback to the south of France and the beginning of the story when the Olivier and Fontaine characters first meet.  The atmosphere is brighter and the music is more upbeat and romantic, but we still feel the lingering dread.  We also start worrying about the characters because we know something bad is going to happen.  We wonder if Olivier was contemplating suicide and we wonder why he is so unpleasant to Fontaine, especially since there is an anticipation of romance between the pair.  When Fontaine speaks to Olivier, we recognize her voice and realize that she is the one who will be involved in whatever eventually destroys Manderley.

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


The thing I notice is the angle in which Hitchcock shoots his scenes. Olivier overlooking the rocks...the shots from behind at a steep angle and the steep angle from below him. All these increase your anxiety and the suspense of the scene. 


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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? 

 

To my mind, this opening scene of Rebecca is closest to The Lodger in tone and feeling, but, otherwise, it is pretty much a total departure from the British movies.  The music is totally different, it's haunting and gloomy, not gay or "show business".  Also, there are no crowds of people, no neon lights, no city streets. The use of a narrator is totally different, although it's exactly how the book opens, and I can't imagine anyone making a movie of this book and not using the opening paragraph.  

 

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

 

Although the music in the opening is different from the previous Hitchcock movies, it has a haunting motif that is typical Hitchcock.  It's also set in an exotic locale - South of France/Monte Carlo - so there is that Hitchcock "touch" (although the South of France in Rebecca looks mysteriously like the California coast of Big Sur and Carmel).  Another "touch" that I noticed was the cute "meet up" between the leading characters.  They are initially shown as opposites in temperament and 'class', which was the case in earlier Hitchcock films, The Lady Vanishes, and, The 39 Steps.

 

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 more than the setting for Rebecca.  Immediately, the audience knows, from the narration, that this is a haunted, important, element to the plot and to the characters.  Everything that is going to happen after this opening sequence will be tied up with Manderley and it's secrets.

 

Let me also say, I adored this movie, and I read and enjoyed the book.  The Joan Fontaine character works for me, but at the beginning, I just wanted to shake her.  I like that she's intelligent, but I hate her lack of confidence.  Joan Fontaine is certainly brilliant in this film and I think she measures up to Olivier in almost every scene.  All around, I think this is a great film, but just a bit out of the "norm" for Hitchcock.  It is much richer than his British films, and a great intro to his new American career.

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1. The opening of Rebecca is very different from the opening scenes of Hitchcock's previous films. Rather than opening with a crowd scene busy with people Rebecca opens on the ominous flashback of the new Mrs. De Winter as she recalls her dreams about the house she once lived in. In introducing Mr. De Winter the scene is much more intimate and foreboding than Hitch's prior films.

 

2. The dreamlike yet mysterious opening scene is trademark Hitchcock.

 

3. Manderly is absolutely a character all of its own in this film. It is in turns cold,remote, and foreboding like the original Mrs. DeWinter and warm and inviting when Max and his new bride first arrive there.

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1. For the first time the Daily Doses feature a scene that doesn't open with crowds. The differences go beyond that though. This opening is haunting. The second Mrs. DeWinter opens it recounting her dream of her return to Manderley. And, the sequence plays to that dream as we float along the abandoned driveway to the ominous view of the house.

 

There is little that is haunting about any of the other openings. Even "The Lodger" isn't about mystery. It's about suspense and the feeling we're about to be catapulted into a frenzied danger.

 

2. Hitchcock always seems to set up a film by creating an imbalance that must be tamed. This film is no different. He segues away from the haunting opening by sweeping up the cliffs of the French coast (in reality, Big Sur), to the precarious positioning of DeWinter. The unique angles are Hitchcock devices we've learned he became acquainted with while working in Germany at UFA with the Expressionists. 

 

Also, Ms. Fontaine makes her appearance as a woman perplexed by the situation she's stumbled into. This seems to be a recurring Hitchcock device, too. One that will need resolution.

 

3. Hitchcock makes Manderley a character by elevating it's presence as though it was a player in the action that brought us to this point of recall. Ms. Fontaine speaks of it in the voice over as though it had a life beyond stone and boards and glass. We float through the woods surrounding the house above the overgrown driveway until the house creeps into the frame with the words "Manderley, secretive and silent." But, of course, houses cannot be secretive and silent - those are the characteristics of animals, not structures.

 

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1. The opening sequence of Rebecca is shot outdoors as were The Man Who Knew Too Much and The Lodger and unlike Blackmail, The Ring and The 39 Steps which were all shot indoors; serious in tone and atmosphere as were The Lodger and Downhill unlike the light-hearted Pleasure Garden and unlike the Ring though the latter had a mixture of seriousness( in the scene with the fighter talking to his trainer) and light-heartedness (in the party scene in the room next door).

 

The opening scene is truly dramatic with its mysterious shots of the long, twisting driveway and the house itself and reminded me of the nighttime opening sequence of The Lodger with its moonlit scenes. The Man Who Knew Too Much too opened with a dramatic shot of the skier skiing into the spectators but turned into a more light-hearted scene when the people find out that they are not in danger.

 

2. We can see the Hitchcock touch in this scene as Fontaine who describes her connection with Manderley is shown as an ordinary woman who we know is going to be drawn into extraordinary circumstances because of the first words she utters in the opening shot about the house.

 

Also the house, although not ordinary are Fontaine's home and not where you'd expect something dangerous to happen but we are given a hint that something dangerous will happen.

 

You could say that the fact that we are informed that they won't be able to go to Manderley again is a MacGuffin which will move the plot forward.

 

3. Manderley is introduced to us in a flashback which is atmospheric and dramatic. At first it looks like a house which is alive with lights but then the camera pans to the right where you notice the burnt remains of the house and we are made aware of the sense of impending gloom especially when Fontaine says that they will never return there. We know that the house, like a character, is going to have an influence on Fontaine and the plot.. The lighting of this scene with its dark shadows and the dream sequence narration make it one of the most dramatic and atmospheric opening sequences in the history of cinema.

 

For those who have read the book or seen the film before, it is obvious that the house is going to play an important role in the film but for those who haven't read the book or seen the movie, this opening sequence is a very mysterious and intriguing intro to the story which hints at the sadness to come when the narrator informs the cinema audience that she and someone else ("we") will not be going back to the house again.

 

 

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"Rebecca" has one of the least Hitchcock-like openings of a movie by Hitchcock - obviously a reflection of the Selznick strictures. What documentation still exists of the rejected first proposed treatment by Hitchcock of the movie which Selznick threw out? I am sure that if Hitchcock had been allowed to be Hitchcock for "Rebecca" the movie would have been entirely different - it would have had suspense instead of mystery and atmosphere and be less pedestrian at the start. This movie is memorable, but I believe it could have been more so had Hitchcock been allowed free rein to produce his own vision.

 

It's interesting to compare "The 39 Steps" (the novel) with Hitchcock's treatment in the movie. They are so different. The germ of the idea for "The 39 Steps" movie and some of the scenes are rooted in the book, but the novel is one independent creation while the movie is another.

 

In some ways - even though it's a memorable film - "Rebecca" is Hitchcock's great failure - yet it's a failure that lies at the feet of Selznick, not Hitchcock. What could have been is so tantalizing to dream of. 

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Daily Dose #9: Last Night I dreamt, Scene from Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940)

 

The opening scene is slower than the fast paced editing and montages of previous Daily Doses. And it is talky immediately, with the voice over narration, a symptom, I wonder, of Selznick’s influence and words right from the novel? It reminds me of one of the opening shots of Citizen Kane, with the iron gate, and Xanadu hovering in the background. The camera moves fluidly through the gate, along a winding path that looks highly artificial, dark shadows over it, not quite like the movement of cloud shadows, and then the broken down ruins of Manderlay. So the verbal element is very different, trying to tell the story in words, but the dream state visuals similar to the nightmare opening of The Lodger in that they created the same state. The pathway is a familiar motif in Hitchcock, with his fascination with travel, and picaresque plots. Hitchcock has another mode that contrasts to his manic, intercut crowd scenes, more elegiac, slower-paced, focusing on creation of a mood full of haunting and loss.

 

I don’t see much of the Hitchcock touch here. Yes there is an ordinary woman drawn into a mystery, and she relies on her own resources when she sees De Winter looking like he is about to fall of or jump off a cliff, but the setting is not an ordinary place, there’s no villain, no McGuffin.

 

The house as a character creates a heavy mood, ominous, and portentous, like the Psycho house, dominating this world. The flashback structure and voice narration lay out the director’s intent to path of this character’s story, how we got from point A to point B.

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This place has a lot of mystery! Yes, it seems like an idyllic place to be and yet.....
there is something there! And what about the man she saved for suicide? Seems there's some kind of romance here with a dark tone! Love 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? 


 


Most of Hitchcock's opening scenes are in public places. This film differs in that it is in a lonely, desolate location.


 


 


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


 


The tracking shot down the long overgrown driveway and the sense of mystery.


 


 


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 ominous outline of the house, the shadow of the cloud portrayed as a giant hand, and the lights coming from the window all give the house character. The flashback and voiceover make me curious about what happened there.


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1.) The scene begins with the description of Manderley. It brings a shrouded cloud of mystic essence which makes one wonder about the sheer existence of the manor. It has the elements of gothic novel which has a haunted along with intimidating characters who goes at any length to frighten us, especially me. Mr. Hitchcock sure knows how to feature hair-raising elements in his films.

 

2.) The twisted and twirled way to Manderley is a great shot along with the monologue by Joan Fontaine, who brought a thrilling effect for those who hear it at the very beginning o the film.

 

3.) One could believe that the manor was personified as a real person. It seems to me that Manderley would come back to life through the haunted memories of Rebecca.

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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.

 

Unlike other openings, this film doesn't show people right away, but rather slowly pans along a path and uses narration to welcome the viewer to the story. Again, it is an ordinary location, but for the first time I had the sense that the house was going to be just as important as any other character. There is more emphasis on location, and a slowing down of pace.

 

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

 

The location is ordinary, and the people seem to be pretty ordinary, but it's not yet clear that they will be thrust into extraordinary circumstances. This didn't seem to have as much of a Hitchcock touch as other films - possibly because of the producer's influence.

 

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 voiceover narration have on your experience of this scene?

 

Manderley seems like a character because of the way the opening voiceover is all about the house, and the only thing the viewer sees in the couple minutes of the film is the journey down the drive to the house, and the house itself, rather than beginning with either of the main characters.

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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 particular opening scene provides a foreshadowing that evokes a most unpleasant "secretive and silent" influence.  After this initial scene, we begin the progression of the film with a flashback that starts it all.  In terms of pertinent information, we are, at the same time, given everything and nothing in this opening scene. 


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


Hitchcockian touches in the opening scene include:


  • surreal/nightmarish/Gothic veneer
  • lighting/shadows
  • blonde character
  • the connection of two strangers by . . . fate?
  • camera movement
  • foreshadowing

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 "cemetery" that is Manderley is made into a character by its severe importance to what is foreshadowed in the beginning.  We can tell by the voiceover narration and the flashback structure that the house of Manderley will be the strongest protagonist in this story.  It has seen things, experienced things, and will, no doubt, live to tell the tale, whatever tale that may be.  


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