Rebecca – Is the Old Better Than the New?

REVIEW
by Sandra Kuznetsova
17.11.2020
In late October, the film Rebecca (2020) by Ben Wheatley was released on Netflix. This is nothing more than a remake of the famous film by Alfred Hitchcock. However, not everything is so simple. Let's try to compare these two films and the original book.
The essence of the plot is the same everywhere. A timid, unnamed young heroine (Lily James), the companion of an elderly aristocrat, Mrs van Hopper, unexpectedly becomes close to the handsome and recently widowed rich man Max de Winter (Armie Hammer). They soon marry and move to Manderley, her husband's family mansion. However, the newly minted Mrs de Winter feels very uncomfortable in the walls of a posh house, besides, the domineering housekeeper Mrs Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas) shows open hostility to the new owner. Everything reminds her of the previous Mrs de Winter, Rebecca. In addition, the mysterious circumstances of her death...
The book Rebecca by the English writer Daphne Du Maurier, written in 1938, was immortalized by Alfred Hitchcock in his 1940 film adaptation with Laurence Olivier as Max and Joan Fontaine as the second Mrs. de Winter. It was an atypical job for a master thriller. Although it has a slight touch of mysticism and suspense, the film feels more like a psychological drama. It is interesting in its own way if you are a fan of classics. The modern audience will rather not like some lack of initiative of the nameless main character. She doesn't decide much, isn't very active in the frame and is generally seen as more of an addition to Mr de Winter. Their relationship is perceived as quite cardboard and is based literally on the fact that she is cute, silly and asks not to leave her. This is not a reproach to the film of the forties, but it is a fact.

The new film by Ben Wheatley turned out to be much more lively (and, above all, more colorful).
It is warm and light, Wheatley succeeded in creating a purely English atmosphere of the picture. Visually, the film looks very beautiful, starting with the costumes of the main characters and ending with the chic de Winter's mansion and its surroundings. The interior of the house with its colorful tapestries, antiques and expensive bed linen looks perfect. What can we say about the scenery of Côte d'Azur?

But this adaptation's peculiarities are not only in the quality of the image. Because of the differences in the plot, the new film is closer to reality, more believable. Characters got plenty of emotions and chances to express them. The plot has acquired more detective features and along with this, the main character has also become more active.

The ending of the new film quite corresponds to the content of the novel. The story of Rebecca's death, killed by Max before she was thrown into the sea, was changed in Hitchcock's film due to the Hays Code. Formally known as the Motion Pictures Production Code, the Hays Code was a set of moral principles observed in Hollywood between the 30s and the 60s. These principles, among many other rules, prohibited directors from showing interracial or same-sex romances.

Under this Code, the murder of a woman by her husband could not be shown in any positive light and the script required Max to be either killed or sent to prison for homicide (to convince the audience that the crime did not go unpunished). To get around this, in Hitchcock's film, the circumstances of Rebecca's death were changed so that Max hadn't killed his first wife – she left for a trip in the boathouse during their argument and died after hitting her head. Fearing that he would be blamed, Max covered up her death by sinking the boat, but in fact he was innocent of her murder.

However, at another point, the content of the new film departs from both the novel and the 1940 film. Max succumbs to Mr Favell's blackmail and writes him a cheque for £ 10,000, which is then used against him in court as a proof of his guilt. In the original story, Max calls him a liar and summons the coroner himself, inviting him to listen to what Mr Favell says and see a note from Rebecca.

In the next controversial scene, there are differences again. In the new film, the heroine sneaks into the doctor's office to view Rebecca's medical record before the coroner and the others as she fears that Rebecca was pregnant, which Mr. Favell is trying to prove. In the book, she comes along with everyone else. In Hitchcock's film, she is not even present at this scene.
And finally, the very end again differs. The book ends with the de Winter couple driving towards Manderley when It is on fire. Mrs Danvers disappears without a trace. In the 1940 adaptation, Max and his steward ride in the car. Mrs Danvers stays in Rebecca's old room as the house collapses, until she is killed by burning logs falling on her. In the new film, Max and his wife arrive at the estate together. And then the main character witnesses Mrs Danvers jumping into the water from a cliff. In the finale, we see the de Winter couple living happily in sunny Cairo, where the shadows of the past have no power over them.
The image of Rebecca is ambiguously read in both films. A portrait of her hangs in Manderley. Mrs. Danvers, when she wants to frame the new Mrs. de Winter, tells her to dress in exactly the same way for the ball, without saying that it is Rebecca. The woman in the novel and in the old movie looks pretty innocent, you can't tell what's going on in her soul. In the Netflix movie, Rebecca is shown as a real femme fatale. Black-haired, domineering, in a dark red dress... Many may say that the lesbian subtext of the relationship between Rebecca and Mrs. Danvers is not developed, but,in my opinion, the new version of the film has even more of it than Hitchcock's work.
Summing up all of the above, I would rather recommend watching a new movie. Yes, Hitchcock is an immortal and universally recognized classic, but it is a bit outdated both technically and morally. The timing of the two films is about the same (2 hours), but the old one seems to be too long. If you want to enjoy the atmosphere of the first half of the twentieth century, choose a new film; if you want to get acquainted with the history of cinema – an old one; and if you are interested in the plot, then read a book.
 
Rebecca – Is the Old Better Than the New?
REVIEW
by Sandra Kuznetsova
17.11.2020
In late October, the film Rebecca (2020) by Ben Wheatley was released on Netflix. This is nothing more than a remake of the famous film by Alfred Hitchcock. However, not everything is so simple. Let's try to compare these two films and the original book.
The essence of the plot is the same everywhere. A timid, unnamed young heroine (Lily James), the companion of an elderly aristocrat, Mrs van Hopper, unexpectedly becomes close to the handsome and recently widowed rich man Max de Winter (Armie Hammer). They soon marry and move to Manderley, her husband's family mansion. However, the newly minted Mrs de Winter feels very uncomfortable in the walls of a posh house, besides, the domineering housekeeper Mrs Danvers (Kristin Scott Thomas) shows open hostility to the new owner. Everything reminds her of the previous Mrs de Winter, Rebecca. In addition, the mysterious circumstances of her death...

The book Rebecca by the English writer Daphne Du Maurier, written in 1938, was immortalized by Alfred Hitchcock in his 1940 film adaptation with Laurence Olivier as Max and Joan Fontaine as the second Mrs. de Winter. It was an atypical job for a master thriller. Although it has a slight touch of mysticism and suspense, the film feels more like a psychological drama. It is interesting in its own way if you are a fan of classics. The modern audience will rather not like some lack of initiative of the nameless main character. She doesn't decide much, isn't very active in the frame and is generally seen as more of an addition to Mr de Winter. Their relationship is perceived as quite cardboard and is based literally on the fact that she is cute, silly and asks not to leave her. This is not a reproach to the film of the forties, but it is a fact.
The new film by Ben Wheatley turned out to be much more lively (and, above all, more colorful). It is warm and light, Wheatley succeeded in creating a purely English atmosphere of the picture. Visually, the film looks very beautiful, starting with the costumes of the main characters and ending with the chic de Winter's mansion and its surroundings. The interior of the house with its colorful tapestries, antiques and expensive bed linen looks perfect. What can we say about the scenery of Côte d'Azur?

But this adaptation's peculiarities are not only in the quality of the image. Because of the differences in the plot, the new film is closer to reality, more believable. Characters got plenty of emotions and chances to express them. The plot has acquired more detective features and along with this, the main character has also become more active.

The ending of the new film quite corresponds to the content of the novel. The story of Rebecca's death, killed by Max before she was thrown into the sea, was changed in Hitchcock's film due to the Hays Code. Formally known as the Motion Pictures Production Code, the Hays Code was a set of moral principles observed in Hollywood between the 30s and the 60s. These principles, among many other rules, prohibited directors from showing interracial or same-sex romances.
Under this Code, the murder of a woman by her husband could not be shown in any positive light and the script required Max to be either killed or sent to prison for homicide (to convince the audience that the crime did not go unpunished). To get around this, in Hitchcock's film, the circumstances of Rebecca's death were changed so that Max hadn't killed his first wife – she left for a trip in the boathouse during their argument and died after hitting her head. Fearing that he would be blamed, Max covered up her death by sinking the boat, but in fact he was innocent of her murder.

However, at another point, the content of the new film departs from both the novel and the 1940 film. Max succumbs to Mr Favell's blackmail and writes him a cheque for £ 10,000, which is then used against him in court as a proof of his guilt. In the original story, Max calls him a liar and summons the coroner himself, inviting him to listen to what Mr Favell says and see a note from Rebecca.

In the next controversial scene, there are differences again. In the new film, the heroine sneaks into the doctor's office to view Rebecca's medical record before the coroner and the others as she fears that Rebecca was pregnant, which Mr. Favell is trying to prove. In the book, she comes along with everyone else. In Hitchcock's film, she is not even present at this scene.
And finally, the very end again differs. The book ends with the de Winter couple driving towards Manderley when It is on fire. Mrs Danvers disappears without a trace. In the 1940 adaptation, Max and his steward ride in the car. Mrs Danvers stays in Rebecca's old room as the house collapses, until she is killed by burning logs falling on her. In the new film, Max and his wife arrive at the estate together. And then the main character witnesses Mrs Danvers jumping into the water from a cliff. In the finale, we see the de Winter couple living happily in sunny Cairo, where the shadows of the past have no power over them.

The image of Rebecca is ambiguously read in both films. A portrait of her hangs in Manderley. Mrs. Danvers, when she wants to frame the new Mrs. de Winter, tells her to dress in exactly the same way for the ball, without saying that it is Rebecca. The woman in the novel and in the old movie looks pretty innocent, you can't tell what's going on in her soul. In the Netflix movie, Rebecca is shown as a real femme fatale. Black-haired, domineering, in a dark red dress... Many may say that the lesbian subtext of the relationship between Rebecca and Mrs. Danvers is not developed, but,in my opinion, the new version of the film has even more of it than Hitchcock's work.
Summing up all of the above, I would rather recommend watching a new movie. Yes, Hitchcock is an immortal and universally recognized classic, but it is a bit outdated both technically and morally. The timing of the two films is about the same (2 hours), but the old one seems to be too long. If you want to enjoy the atmosphere of the first half of the twentieth century, choose a new film; if you want to get acquainted with the history of cinema – an old one; and if you are interested in the plot, then read a book.
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