They are my favorite. I love talking about this shit, and hopefully you enjoy reading about it. I do not profess to be a professional at this, and my opinion is just a crazy girl's opinion, but hopefully it'll get you interested in reading, watching, listening to something if you haven't encountered it before...or you'll have a fun discussion about it with me! Please? Like I said, I really love talking about this.
So today we're going back, back all the way to 1964 to the super underrated, super psychological Hitchcock film Marnie.
There's a lot about Marnie that's interesting. It might be my favorite Hitchcock film.
Firstly, the sexual aspects of the movie are not hidden or even close to subtle; not bad for 1964, right? Sean fucking Connery was Mark Ruland and Tippi Hedren played Marnie. Connery was smoking hot back then (despite reports that he was a misogynist and an all-around douche). The camera loved him. He was gorgeous, he had an accent and he had a je ne sais quoi. He was also coming off of the success of Dr. No. So he was oozing sex, okay?
In spite of his heavy accent, he was cast as Mark--who was supposed to be a super rich American guy from a powerful family. Tippi Hedren was cast as Marnie-- an uptight, frigid and, of course, blonde thief.
In many ways, the sexual undertones are central to the plot. Marnie wouldn't be Marnie if it hadn't been for a sexually-charged experience she once had as a child. She wouldn't have become a thief, or gotten away with her thievery, or have become interesting to Mark, etc. But what's equally interesting is the dynamic that went on behind the scenes.
Alfred Hitchcock was an odd fellow. Many details have emerged about his personality, both during his life but particularly after his death. He was a perfectionist with an odd sense of humor who could be quite cruel, and very crude. He had a penchant for seemingly aloof blondes with secret passions just waiting to erupt from inside them (or he imagined they possessed such passion), he enjoyed terrifying people and he loved suspense (the King of suspense, many say). This is a funny little description about him from Cracked.com http://www.cracked.com/funny-438-alfred-hitchcock/.
He was also a bit of a pervert.
Granted, it's from one person's POV, but many people have backed up Hedren's reports and other actresses have come forward saying similar things. I always struggle with the whole "should we separate the art from the artist" debate but I don't want to get into it now and I more often than not do separate the art.
So, moving on: sex is all over Hitchcock's work. That's not too remarkable; sex is often all over everything. But Hitchcock enjoyed some strange predilections and one has to wonder if they managed to translate to the screen. The sex was never plain old sex, either; it was twisted and manipulative and confusing. And exploitative, usually, for the woman. Think about Psycho, Vertigo, The Birds! I could name any of them really and we could sit and talk about their sexual components.
Some fun Hitchcock quotes before we get to talking about the movie, because it's a fun peek inside his head:
"Blondes make the best victims. They're like virgin snow that shows up the bloody footprints."
"I always believe in following the advice of the playwright (Victorien) Sardou. He said, 'Torture the women!' The trouble today is that we don't torture women enough."
Of Marnie, he said, "the fetish idea -- a man wants to go to bed with a thief, because she's a thief."***
Yeah. There was a little something wrong with him, I'd presume.
Marnie didn't do well in theaters, mainly because after Hitchcock propositioned Hedren and she was like, "No, bro," he was done with her and done with the film. The result was a disaster and audiences didn't appreciate it at the time.
I love it. The haunting soundtrack, Marnie's aloofness and the dichotomy of her strength and vulnerability, Mark's curiosity and occasional tenderness, Marnie's mother, the horses, ... even Lil, Mark's deceased wife's sister, is a joy to watch. It's sad to think about Hitchcock deserting it, as if he'd deserted poor Marnie herself.
So a brief summary of the movie which will, of course, contain some spoilers because I want to comment on some crazy stuff:
Marnie is a thief and she uses her looks to get jobs without references. She then steals money when no one notices. She accidentally goes to the friend of her ex-employer, her next mark--a company owned by... Mark. Ha. She's dyed her hair a dull brown, proclaims she's a widow and spouts other bullshit at the guy interviewing her as Mark looks on amused. He has her number and suspects she's the thief that stole all the money from his acquaintance's firm. He hires her, keeps an eye on her and seems to usually find her fucking hilarious. She doesn't do anything hilarious, I just think Mark's fascinated by her act.
Marnie comes to work with Mark privately one day and he spends the time to study her. We learn his favorite hobby is to study the behavior of animals (hmm). We also learn Marnie is afraid of thunderstorms and the color red because she flips her shit when a storm comes out of nowhere. Mark comforts her and sneaks a kiss in (smooth, man).
So then Mark pursues her romantically. He figures out she's interested in horse track racing and that she loves horses, so he proposes they go together. It's clear Marnie is as uncomfortable as can be, but she does soften up a bit because Mark knows just how to approach her. Due to his pet hobby, he understandably knows a thing or two about how to treat her. He doesn't press her or annoy her. He gives her a little kiss when he brings her back to his father's house which was a big deal, especially since the family is supposed to be American aristocracy.
Lil-- the sister of Mark's deceased wife who is of course in love with him--lives with Mark and his father and watches on with disdain and poorly concealed desperation. Her faces are wickedly amusing. Let's not forget she's a brunette.
Then Marnie decides it's time to rob him, for a multitude of reasons. I'd say mostly because she's attracted to Mark, which totally goes against her doctrine that boys drool. She's all like "yuck" in her mind because she can't fathom being intimate with him.
After Marnie robs Mark and disappears, she goes for a lovely horse ride. Problem is, Mark's tracked her down. He knows she stole from him, and from his friend. Oops.
He blackmails her into marrying him and they have a DISASTROUS honeymoon. Marnie doesn't want to have sex, or be touched. Mark is as understanding as he can be, but he is infatuated (and he's Sean Connery, damn it) and he's getting frustrated. Finally one night he loses his cool and rips Marnie's robe away. The camera stays on her face as he does it; the frantic fear turns to terrifyingly quiet blankness.The Girl Toby Jones's Hitchcock insists on this shot because it gives him a little thrill to see this woman so thoroughly humiliated (and the The Girl suggests his movies are his instruments of excitement, that he lives vicariously through the camera). Since he has beyond had it with Tippi and her unwillingness to play his games, this scene has an added layer of ickiness. I'm not well read enough on the subject to comment on the reality of this request, and I'm not Hitchcock so I can't say what he was really thinking, but I bet that was pretty much what went on there.
The original scriptwriter fought Hitchcock on the rape scene. He thought it made Mark "unheroic" and that audiences would hate him. Hitchcock fired him and hired Jay Presson Allen--a woman--to write the script. According to a quote from IMDB.com, "[she] stated that opposition to the rape scene doomed Hunter [original screenwriter] since that scene was the main reason Hitchcock wanted to do the film. For her part, Allen said she never had any qualms about including the scene, and felt it was up to Sean Connery and his charisma to make the audience "forgive" Mark's actions."
There is a lot of fucked upness there we need to process. I find it interesting it was a man who said, "Hey, I don't really like this scene." I find it interesting a woman swooped in and went "Eh, it's okay... It's Sean Connery, damn it!"
But the most fascinating piece? Is that the rape scene is the main reason Hitchcock wanted to make the fucking movie.
Forget about being intrigued by a story about the psychology of a damaged woman, a man helping her figure out why she has all these repressed fears, the dynamic between her and her mother, her desire to rob men and how she eventually triumphs over her problems (thanks to Mark, of course). I think the rape scene is in the book but to hear it was Hitchcock's main reason to adapt it is rough.
After Mark rapes her, Marnie tries to kill herself. He hires a private detective to find out more about Marnie's past and eventually draws out Marnie's repressed memories.
When she was a little girl, her mother used to be a prostitute. One of her men went out to comfort little Marnie during a thunderstorm and kissed her on the cheek. Her mother saw it, went bananas and killed the dude with a fireplace poker. The blood went everywhere. So Marnie has issues with men because of her mother's past occupation and the shit that happened with her mom's client, issues with thunderstorms because the awful thing happened during one and issues with red because there was blood everywhere.
She's essentially "cured" by the ending, walks away from her mother calmly and tells Mark she wants to try again (meaning their marriage). The swelling score begins to play.
I love this movie, even though it's problematic. Perhaps I feel bad for the terrified girl trapped in the terrified woman's body. I love the psychological bent to it. I love the look of the film, the music, the dialogue and even the name "Marnie".
I'm happy for Marnie in the end. She has conquered, or has begun to conquer, her fears. She might become an entirely different person. Already she's more affectionate, more emotional.
Maybe she'll even learn to enjoy sex now. Maybe now she'll become a fierce lioness. I hope so. I'm rooting for her, anyway.
Watch it. If you've watched it, tell me what you think.
*** do men really want to have sex with female thieves????