Quick-Thoughts: Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940)

When does someone ever not live in the shadow of another? Statistically, there can only be one #1 human individual among the 7.8 billion people we have roaming the face of Earth. Even in smaller, more personal affairs, there can still only be one #1 among a couple dozen people in a family—a sort of “favorite” to say the least. It’s the dilemma of picking bests or worsts and imploring biased inquiries due to the nostalgia you possess of those fine people you love. In other words, it’s the dilemma of how their memory may inappropriately sway your opinions of other new individuals that you will likely encounter in your future. The practice of ranking is ever so hazy, yet, we all do it.

A young woman has fallen for an older man known as “Maxim” de Winter. This lady’s first name is unknown, but we, later on, refer to her as the “second Mrs. de Winter” for particular reasons. The soon to be second Mrs. de Winter is gravely in love with Maxim and grows truly head over heels when he asks her to marry him, ultimately leading the second Mrs. de Winter into a mature lifestyle she never could’ve anticipated arriving so early on in her life. But, there’s a catch: Maxim’s ex-wife, who we refer to as the “first Mrs. de Winter,” or better yet, “Rebecca,” died a year ago. Marked as a nearly perfect woman from peers who knew her left and right, apparently, this first Mrs. de Winter must’ve been the most beautiful, witty woman in the whole wide world, assumed by the second Mrs. de Winter. 

This seed of expectation; it’s making the second Mrs. de Winter go absolutely insane. She doesn’t know how to handle such preposterous pressure. Should she attempt to be as divine as Rebecca or merely an exact image of Rebecca, as if the woman now deceased never left? It furthermore doesn’t help that nearly everybody working in Maxim’s gargantuan estate (or mansion) seem a tad off on the “sane” spectrum. 

Not everything is ever as it seems in the new Mrs. de Winter’s universe, and she’s just now realizing that. The underrated, early release Rebecca is a psychological force of traumatically unforeseen twists and turns that arguably has Hitchcock’s most complex characters next to Vertigo, maybe even ever! Oh, how one dead woman can do so much damage at the hands of so many people. 

Verdict: A

Alfred Hitchcock Ranked 

“Rebecca” is now available to purchase on The Criterion Collection.

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