Rebecca: Eighty Years Later
This semester I’m taking a course focused on the study of Alfred Hitchcock. Prior to this class I had only seen Psycho (which I watched for another cinema class), but to date, I have now seen 10 Hitchcock films.
The 39 Steps (1935)
The Lady Vanishes (1938)
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Strangers on a Train (1951)
Rear Window (1954)
I’m enjoying these films a lot (some more than others) and I am excited to continue watching the remaining films for my class to see how Hitchcock continued to evolve over the decades.
Rebecca is the only film on this list that wasn’t on my class syllabus. As I was researching for an essay over the film Suspicion, I found a lot of comparisons and mentions of Rebecca. As Hitchcock’s first film in Hollywood, he did exceptionally well. Rebecca won Best Picture and Best Cinematography at the Academy Awards that year along with several other nominations, including Joan Fontaine’s nomination for Best Actress. The very next year Hitchcock released Suspicion, where Fontaine plays a nearly identical role, but this time she won the award for Best Actress. I like being able to compare movies (and I enjoyed Suspicion), so I watched Rebecca for more context.
Coincidentally, Netflix released Rebecca (2020) days after I watched the original. Oh boy. What to think… On the one hand I was excited that this even meant anything to me, because I probably wouldn’t have watched or even understood the significance of this release without having seen Hitchcock’s. On the other hand, I wanted to facepalm out of worry (for hopefully obvious reasons). Because it was fresh on my mind and (like I said) I really like comparing movies, I decided to see this attempt to remake one of Hitchcock’s more successful films (80 years later).
The movie was fine.
The cinematography was clean, the story followed pretty closely with the 1940 version, and it was a good watch, but as I expected, none of that was enough to stand against the version that made the story of Rebecca so iconic. Hitchcock can’t be imitated. I mean he can, and certainly is, plenty. However, I don’t believe there’s any way to authentically replicate or reproduce a work he’s done as well as he’s done it in my opinion. There are too many factors involved with a remake that could lead to disaster, and trying to overcome a shadow as big as Alfred Hitchcock’s is a great example of that.
I don’t think Rebecca 2020 was bad, but Rebecca 1940 is untouchable.