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A Lit Major At The Movies

Rebecca (2020) and the Case of Hitchcock’s Ghost

Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca is a tricky book. Tricky because it’s a Gothic romance, and in the spirit of this truly problematic genre, it contains some very icky characters. Specifically, its male characters. It’s the story of an unnamed heroine who’s pulled out of an unexceptional existence when she marries a rich widower named Max de Winter and goes to live on his massive English estate, Manderley. She becomes fascinated with the powerful memory of the hero’s first wife, Rebecca, who seems almost alive, a kind of ghost haunting the massive country house, except not literally of course – which is a good thing, all in all, because it cuts out all that messy business with the clanking chains and mysterious rains of blood, which are almost impossible to get out of the carpets.

A few months ago, Netflix released a new film version of this classic of English fiction. I usually try to ignore Netflix’s persistent and bald-faced attempts to shove their own productions down viewers’ throats, but when it comes to period dramas, all spirit of resistance tends to drain out of me rather swiftly. So almost as soon as I saw that Rebecca had been released, we were settling down on a Friday night to watch it.