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Netflix’s ‘Rebecca’ is a Haunting, Modern Twist on the Classic

“Last night I dreamt of Manderley again,” begins the film “Rebecca,” a romantic thriller newly released on Netflix as of Oct. 21, 2020. As with all the protagonist’s dreams, that seem lost to time, no beginning or end, these are the words that drift into the eventual scene of the film “Rebecca.”

Based on the gothic novel written by Daphne Du Maurier, “Rebecca” has been remade into film countless times. The Netflix version is the most recent, and is directed by Ben Wheatley, starring Lily James as the narrator and Armie Hammer as Mr. Max de Winter. The film is set during the 1940’s in Cornwall, England’s rugged coast.

During the introduction, the film gives clues into the character of the narrator and also protagonist, through her dreams, more than we find, to learn of her name. What is left to thought is, who is Rebecca? This question will continue to haunt and also inspire what becomes the entirety of the film.

The film cast co-stars Ann Dowd as Mrs. Van Hopper, who employs the narrator as a woman’s companion. Dowd portrays Mrs. Van Hopper just as the novel describes her: pensive with opportunities and tapping her teeth with her lorgnette. Coequal to the film’s adaption, she consistently persists with her lips ajar after every closing sentence, as if ready to snap back at any comment her employee mentions.

The narrator, without a name, is not only employed as a woman’s companion, but also as a pushover who struggles to catch up to Mrs. Van Hopper’s every demand.

The film’s choreography is embedded in a reverse chronological order, where we visit the end at the beginning. Later, the audience is ushered into a chronological order, as the narrator relives the moment when she met Mr. Max de Winter.

This moment begins our fairytale, with the film resembling a classical painting caught in time at every romantic gesture. Although the film set is visually stunning, it makes up for a predisposed development of the relationship between the narrator and the widower, Mr. Max de Winter.

Unlike the novel, what is left of time for the main character’s relationship to culminate, is lost. The interaction between Mr. Max de Winter and the narrator can be somewhat too comfortable, possibly driven by passion or as Mr. Max de Winter confesses, he wishes he could forget some of his memories.

Although their budding relationship is in its peak, this sets the stage for Mrs. Danvers’ motives, the estate’s head housekeeper and main antagonist. The question yet again, remains the same, who is Rebecca?

The film’s soundtrack, composed by Clint Mansell, is woven beautifully into the story, with the familiar song, “Rebecca, Always Rebecca,” that fades in throughout the entire film. In total, the soundtrack is composed of 20 tracks.

As the film’s narrator persists, she looks for answers at every moment that is spent without Mr. Max de Winter at the estate. With the rise and fall of Cornwall’s sea tide, the murmuration of starlings, enraptured by the constant mist and rain that falls upon Manderley and through her dreams, she seeks the haunting and unforgettable Rebecca.

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