This is my second entry for my Hitchcock blogathon. This time I’m writing about Marnie. This is one of Hitch’s later films, and it is one which I think really deserves to be better known and appreciated by audiences today.
Marnie is one of the most controversial films of Hitchcock’s career and the film hasn’t been as well received by audiences as the vast majority of Hitch’s other films were. I think that was because this isn’t really your typical Hitchcock film. Marnie explores problems of the mind, and it’s far from the usual suspense/thriller films audiences had come to expect from Hitch. Plus the relationship between Sean and Tippi’s characters is quite twisted and unusual.
This is the second and final Hitchcock film to star Tippi Hedren. She was excellent in The Birds, but I really think she outdoes herself in Marnie.
Tippi lets us see that this woman is truly messed up (both emotionally and psychologically)she really makes you feel and believe that Marnie has some major issues in her life that have left her emotionally scarred. In the scenes where Marnie is scared of something, Tippi looks truly vulnerable, petrified and traumatised.
This is an interesting film as most of the suspense lies in unlocking the secrets hidden within Marnie herself. There are some other suspenseful moments (such as the shoe dropping on the floor when Marnie robs the safe)but it is mainly Marnie’s psychological issues which keep us on the edge of our seats throughout.
This film has become famous for the scene where it is strongly implied that Mark rapes Marnie on their wedding night on board the passenger ship. This sequence caused friction between Hitch and the original scriptwriter Evan Hunter .When Hunter left the project the script was written again, this time around by a woman – Jay Presson Allen – who had no trouble in writing that scene, or indeed in writing it the way Hitch wanted it to be shot. I’ll come back to this sequence later.
Margaret (known as Marnie) Edgar (Tippi Hedren)is a compulsive thief who is on the run, after robbing her employer of $10,000. Getting another job as a secretary at Rutland’s Publishing Company, Marnie attracts the attention of its widower owner, Mark Rutland (Sean Connery). Unbeknown to Marnie, Mark saw her at the previous company she just robbed and keeps a close eye on her.
Marnie robs Mark’s firm. This time though she is caught by him. Mark blackmails her into marrying him in return for his silence. Marnie agrees and Mark tries to unlock the many mysteries that surround this woman. Marnie hates being touched, is repulsed by the idea of sex, has panic attacks when she sees the colour red, and she freaks out during thunderstorms. Mark slowly begins to uncover the horrific events in Marnie’s past that have caused her to become the woman she is now.
Sean plays a pretty unique character for a Hitchcock film, in that he appears to be pretty much unlikable. At first glance there is an air about him that makes it appear that he is studying Marnie, and at times it looks like he gets a kick out of forcing her to work on her issues. He treats her as a timid animal who he tries to tame. Marnie herself says to him “I’m just something you’ve caught!”
Having said that though, I’ve often wondered if he appears like that to us because we see him solely from Marnie’s point of view? Her perception of him may well be warped by all the issues she has and how she is so wary of men and sees them all as dangerous things to be avoided. Going back and viewing the film with that possibility in mind makes the unfolding story more interesting I think.
It even makes you go back and think again about that controversial moment between them on the ship, should that sequence actually even be taken at face value? Are we seeing the reality of that moment? Did he rape her? Or are we only seeing Marnie’s warped reaction to him kissing her? It also makes you think that if Mark was a genuinely horrible person, why is he even trying to help Marnie at all with her issues? If he was so bad why would he care about her at all? Towards the end we see that he does care about her and she comes to trust him and values his help.Mark also seems to care more for animals than he does people, and he talks about slowly gaining an animals trust. Throughout the film he uses the same techniques with Marnie, he is patient with her and allows her to come to him over time.
Tippi and Sean are both excellent. There’s strong support from Diane Baker as Mark’s trouble making sister in law, Lil. She openly flirts with Mark, and it’s obvious she is jealous of Marnie when Mark brings her home.
Louise Latham plays Marnie’s mother. At first she is a typical Hitch mother, cold, distant, seemingly responsible for messing up her child etc. As the film goes on though we see her in a very different light. Louise is excellent particularly in the scenes when the truth about what happened to Marnie is revealed. I do think this character is horrid though because of how she treats her daughter and pushes her away.
Mariette Hartley plays Susan, a fellow secretary at Rutland’s who befriends Marnie. She is only in a few scenes but steals each one she is in. I love her amusement over her boss constantly forgetting the safe combination.
There’s also a small appearance by Bruce Dern, as a violent sailor who causes problems for Marnie and her mother.
Those watching this and expecting a typical Hitch film will be surprised. This film is quite unlike his others. I think the negative response to this one is a real shame, as the film is very good and has many memorable moments. The performances from the entire cast are also solid throughout.
My favourite scenes are the following. Marnie and Mark playing the word association game. Marnie dropping the shoe. Marnie freaking out over the red ink. Marnie and Lil meeting for the first time over tea. Mark telling Marnie he trained Sophie (a wild animal)to trust him. Marnie trying to get the gun off Mark. The final sequence when we learn all about what happened to Marnie.
What are your thoughts on this film? Please leave your comments below.