Saturday, March 8, 2014

Max and his new, lovely, unnamed love.

I love Rebecca.

I've loved it since I was a young girl. I read it so many times in my teens – I've lost count of how many – and I thought it was the cleverest thing I’d ever read back then.

If you haven’t read the book, one of the most exciting things about it remains the unnamed narrator. The quiet, insipid childish woman who marries the millionaire widower, only to be haunted at every turn by his enigmatic, powerful, beautiful dead wife.

Rebecca is the title of the book, because that is the name of the women we remember, and Rebecca is the dead wife. While we don’t know our narrators name, the name of the dead wife haunts the reader as much as it does the new bride, her beauty, success and splendor is described in almost every page.

Hitchcock must have loved Rebecca as well. I believe this, because he has remained almost obsessively committed to the book in his adaptation. Joan Fontein is perfect as the nameless girl who marries Max, and Lawrence Olivier is a flawless Max, dashing, distracted and distanced from the needs of his very young wife. Other Du Maurier adaptations he makes, especially Jamaica Inn, often stray from the book, but in Rebecca, Hitchcock reproduces the chilling surreal story almost perfectly.

Spellbound, my book due out at the end of this week, tells the story of another director obsessed with Rebecca, only this time it is Connie, and this time it is Hitchcock’s version she repeatedly remembers. Being a Hitchcock fan, she loves the film and sometimes mistakenly, and other times not, she keeps interpreting her relationship with Jack through the lens of Hitchcock’s film.

This was another reason writing the book gave me so much pleasure. Not just to be able to immerse myself into the world of that book and film again, but also to bring it to life in a new and captivating way.

Sometimes, when we love a book or a film very much, it is because we can easily see ourselves in it. Other times, we might be in danger of what Connie does, slithering out of life with an interpretation that makes us feel like we are in the book or film. It isn't always easy to tell what we are doing in the moment, and a film can feel like an old friend, a sort of interpretation guru that gives our lives a meaning we find difficult to see for ourselves.

This is part of what Connie must deal with in Spellbound. As the pieces of Jacks mysterious life start to present themselves before her, constantly reminding her of the film she loves, is Rebecca happening to her, or is she using Rebecca?

In many ways, they are the same questions Joan Fontaine had to ask when she played that nameless new bride, forever haunted by the specter of Rebecca.

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