Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca – Netflix Movie Review

The Netflix film of Rebecca has finally been released, but does it live up to the hype?

I watched it this evening with my husband. He hasn’t read the book. He thought he’d seen the film but when he remarked, ‘what happened to the scene when the first wife sets fire to the bed?’ I realised he was talking about Jane Eyre. Interesting, as Daphne du Maurier was accused of being somewhat indebted to that classic.

We really enjoyed the cinematography. The scenery was stunning, both in France and in Cornwall (although actually filmed in Dorset and Devon). We loved the Art Deco flavour of the scenes in Monte Carlo (very Agatha Christie), the colour, the costumes and the fantastic vintage cars, especially the Bentley convertible.

The grand houses chosen to represent Manderley (Cranmore Manor among others) worked pretty well. Their interiors were convincing, especially the staircase, the portraits and Rebecca’s suite.

Now to the story:

I missed the slow build you get in a novel, although I’m not sure you can replicate this in a film. The story rattles through at a pace and the suspense didn’t really have time to build. The key scenes are all there, as are the key lines, but for me it all happened too quickly (the ornament incident for example). I missed the sense of mystery, the mis-directions and the gothic undertones.

Changes were made to ensure that the film would work for today’s audiences. I assume the addition of Maxim sleep walking and Rebecca’s phantom appearances were intended to make the film more contemporary.  

Casting:

I think Armie Hammer is too young for Maxim and Lily James as the second Mrs de Winter is not as naïve as she is in the novel. I suppose it wouldn’t be politically correct in the age of ‘Me Too’ for Maxim to be the father-like figure speaking to her as if she’s a child. In the novel she is childlike and naïve, in the film she’s stronger, almost feisty at times (i.e. giving Mrs Danvers notice)

Perhaps that original intimidated and humiliated girl simply wouldn’t be acceptable to audiences more used to heroines the like of Disney’s Anna and Moana?

Kristin Scott Thomas is great as Mrs Danvers. She’s not become a caricature which I feared was the risk.

Some of the secondary characters were well cast. Keeley Hawes as Maxim’s sister Beatrice, Ann Dowd as Mrs Van Hopper, Tim Goodman-Hill as Frank Crawley and Sam Riley as Jack Favell all felt authentic.

My husband didn’t like the music score. I agree it was a little light and fluffy, but then the film itself is light compared to the Hitchcock movie. The music in this film has a different role to play.

What would Daphne think?

In her biography of Daphne, Margaret Forster maintains that Daphne was worried the critics would not see she was writing about the balance of power in a marriage, and not about love. ‘Daphne had created a man the reader is bound to dislike.’ Netflix Maxim is perhaps too likeable?

Rebecca is one of those books that you regret finishing. When people tell me they’ve never read it, I’m jealous because they still have that pleasure to come. Comparing a book and film is not ‘like for like’ and, as Rebecca is my favourite book, a film version will never fully do it justice. Overall, I did enjoy it and if this film leads a new generation to be encouraged to read the novel then it’s certainly a worthwhile watch.

Spoiler alert:

In the novel, the second Mrs de Winter laments, ‘We can never go back.’ The book that Daphne described as ‘a study in jealousy, rather grim and unpleasant,’ does not conclude with the romantic ending inferred in the film. I suggest you read the novel to find out more…

 

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