I was reading Rebecca over Christmas, and my uncle-in-law, seemingly very excited by this news, informed me that Alfred Hitchcock made a film version of the book and I absolutely must see it. I promptly filed this information into the films-I-should-watch-after-reading-the-book-though-I-probably-never-will-because-that-requires-effort-and-the-list-is-already-so-long-that-there's-no-chance-I-could-ever-finish-it-because-let's-face-it-I-like-reading-better folder in my brain. That probably would have been it, except said uncle-in-law discovered my Facebook and it's much easier to remember to add things to your Netflix queue when you're already on the internet. It's also easier to remember to watch something when it shows up in your mailbox all bright red and noticeable.
So here we go: Rebecca, according to Alfred Hitchcock. It was very true to the book, and certain scenes elicited the same response from my husband (who's never read the book) as they did from me when I read the book (usually Oh no... accompanied by a strong sense of discomfort). If the movie can induce the same emotional response as the book it definitely shows that the screenwriter and/or director has/have accomplished something, so kudos on that.
In general, to be perfectly honest, I'm not a huge fan of movies from this era. Laurence Olivier, and many other actors from that time, tend to speak in a way that reminds me a lot of Keanu Reeves (whose acting I abhor) by which I mean that they sound forced. Crazily enough, I prefer for actors to speak like people, not actors. I liked Joan Fontaine's delivery better, though I did mourn the loss of her internal dialogue which is what made me like the book so much.
The casting of Mrs. Danvers was rather disappointing. Any woman could be zipped into a long black dress, have her hair pulled back into a severe bun, and told to look unfriendly and speak in a monotone. Mrs. Danvers requires a bit more than that. Perhaps this is just my interpretation, but I read her as distinctly larger than the second Mrs. DeWinter, not petite, and rather masculine. In shots that focused on her face it was okay, but when I saw her whole tiny body, particularly in the same shot as Mrs.DW2, the effect was lost.
I was definitely disappointed with the ending. I really loved how the novel ended, with Mrs.DW2's sleepy confusion over whether the sun is rising or if those lights in the distance are something else and how it's never specifically stated that Manderley is burning. This is the point where Hitchcock took the most license and it didn't work for me. The sinister image of Mrs. Danvers framed by flames as she (apparently) burns with Manderley was overdone and didn't fit with everything else. I really love the novel's domestic awkwardness enhanced by dark undertones, but this image flipped that relationship around. The darkness enveloped everything and left me with a very different sense of the story.
Overall, I give it a good solid meh. I probably won't be watching it again, but it was still a nice way to pass an evening.