Marnie (1964)

“Marnie” (1964)



Just an Edge

This is a less regarded film by Hitchcock. I think it fails in a point to which Hitchcock was certainly aiming at, but gets it right in other level. Anyway, i think what mattered the most to Hithcock at this point was what i think fails.

People who’ve read other remarks i made on Hitch’s films will know that i think he worked in clear phases, motivated by issues he was interested in mastering. So, i think he had a spatial exploration ‘Rope phase’, another one based on mood/style, (culminated in North by Northwest) and a third phase where i place this film.

This phase has to do with the master trying to find visual/storytelling solutions to try and enter the abyss of human soul. I imagine that, being already a master in superficial visual manipulation/storytelling, and having created such essays on how the eye works (Rear Window, Rope, Dial M…) he was interested to know what he might do trying to put the guts of a character in the eyes of an audience. Rough expression, i know, but that’s what i feel. The curious thing here is that he made it in his first try, with Vertigo, one of the best films ever. What he did after it was never as sharp and interesting to me. Not Psycho, Birds or this Marnie.

The success of Vertigo is that Novak’s character fools us as she fools Stewart’s and so we wander through the same narrow labyrinthic streets of ignorance as Stewart. That’s the device he use, and Hitch’s superior ability to make things unfold visually completes the thing.

So the point where this film fails is where it was more ambitious: in trying to make us work like Marnie, and see the world with her eyes. There is no storytelling device that allows Hitch to use his wonderful visual narration gifts to make the thing work. That’s why he has to use the red screen whenever he wants to underline Marnie’s state of mind. Except for those moments which are not enough to make to transport us, at least not today’s audiences, as spectators we are mere observers to the facts of a woman we sense is disturbed, but we don’t really feel in what measure.

Also, and this may be Hedren/Censorship fault, we cannot (at least i couldn’t) link to the distorted and repressed sexuality underneath Marnie’s frigidity. Maybe on those matters, the film that this theme deserved couldn’t be done in 1964. The horse as a escapist element to her mother’s sexual repression, the behaviour of repulse as the core of her capacity to attract, or the rape scene (both by Sean’s character and the hinted rape when she was a child). Pity, but i don’t know whether Hedren would be able to pull this off even without censorship constraints. She just doesn’t seem that woman (maybe Novak or Kelly could have done it).

What works is what Hitchcock never failed in delivering: his visual economy, and how he grabs you in the eye and takes you wherever he wants. There are scenes which are absolutely remarkable on their own. So check the initial scene, how he establishes what Marnie does, her method, her disguise, and the introduction of Sean Connery’s character and what he knows. Check the scene of the robbery in Rutland’s office, how the perfect framing (in terms of deciding exactly what we see) makes a tense scene and purely visual. And check the relatively celebrated crane shot in the party, it really is masterfully economical and meaningful. The film is a relative failure for what i said, but these scenes make it worthy.

My opinion: 3/5

This comment on IMDb


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