Netflix’s recent film, “Rebbeca,” a remake of Alfred Hitchock’s renowned 1940s version, captures notions of captivating terror, plot twists and multi-layered characters that transcend audience expectations with its polished storyline. “Rebecca” is a brilliant adaptation that depicts the struggles a nameless protagonist undergoes upon transitioning to another realm that aims to banish her.
“Rebecca” follows the nameless protagonist, later referred to as Mrs. de Winter (Lily James), as she travels the world and serves as an assistant to her insolent, affluent employer, Mrs. Van Hopper (Ann Dowd). Upon meeting the suave widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer) in France, the two spend numerous days together and decide to get married when Mrs. Hopper becomes aware of their relationship. The newlywed couple arrives at Maxim’s family estate, known as Manderley, where the protagonist is labamasted by the staff for her inferior social standing. Growing distant from Maxim and falling prey to the housekeeper’s (Kristin Scott Thomas) foul play, the young woman uncovers the truth about what actually happened to Maxim’s ex-wife, Rebecca.
The film displays superb cinematography that deems it visually stunning. It places the audience in beautiful locations as it opens up to the colorful, basking setting of France and transitions to the countryside where Manderley is located. The Manderley manor appears as a magnificent castle with its lustrous interior and opulent possessions, in addition to a cottage near the glistening sea — reminiscent of something out of a fantasy realm. Moreover, the color scheme is excellent as it transitions from light hues in Europe to a darker tone and saturated, red lighting to engulf Manderley, which unearths the perils of the manor and instills suspense in the viewer. In one particular scene, the protagonist is encircled by people during a ball who chant a mysterious name as red light floods their ghastly faces, creating an unsettling aura. The camera angles are outstanding in providing an insight into the protagonist’s mind as they alter between her time with Maxim and thoughts she has about his past.
In terms of acting, the main characters executed their performances exceptionally well. The protagonist undergoes immense character development as she transitions from a confused, disrespected lady to establishing a fearless caliber and undertaking the rightful power she possesses in Manderley. In doing so, she emerges from Rebecca’s shadow to establish a name for herself and refuses to allow social class and judgments to dictate her value. James perfectly captured the two sides to her character with outstanding facial expressions and her change in speech. Hammer brilliantly encompasses an enigmatic character, distraught with suppressed emotions left behind by his ex-wife, as he gradually unveils an intimidating demeanor along with a grief that takes a toll on his life. Thomas embodies a manipulating villain with her menacing manner and creates tension during scenes with James.
Moreover, the costume design effectively captured the distinct character traits: the protagonist transforms from wearing simple clothing that reflect her recent social class to sophisticated attire at Manderley, Maxime escapes and returns to his past by wearing sun-kissed clothing in Europe to darker tones at Manderley, and Mrs. Danvers’ dark clothing paired with a serious expression creates a sense of uneasiness.
Although “Rebecca” is predominantly a mystery film, it also illustrates a psychological thriller as the omnipresence of the late Rebecca looms over the protagonist and entangles her in a web of her own insecurities. Throughout the film, Mrs. Danvers compares Mrs. de Winter to the beauty, caliber and skills of Rebecca, and even the staff is seen laughing at her. Already dealing with the stereotypes of social class that confine her place in Manderley, the protagonist believes herself unworthy of Maxim and becomes doubtful of her nature. Thus, “Rebbeca” alludes to the human condition as it highlights the self-consciousness and disbelief individuals may possess when undertaking certain challenges. In showcasing the character development of Mrs. de Winter, the film also utilizes a feminist perspective by portraying a revival of oneself as she takes initiative to become a leader rather than remaining in the shadow of Maxime and his late ex-wife.
Ultimately, the film effectively integrates the themes of psychology, feminism, social class and suspense in the storyline. There are several plot twists, and though the audience may think they understand everything about Rebecca’s demise, there are multiple layers enfolded in the characters to discover what actually occurred. The powerful acting by the cast and effective costume design keeps the audience immersed in the film. Moreover, the cinematography creates a suspenseful aura and makes the film visually pleasing.
Verdict: “Rebecca” is a captivating, picturesque film that explores complexities of various characters which are executed excellently by the cast members. The film embodies a plethora of themes while maintaining a healthy dose of suspense that keeps the audience enthralled in the story with its plot twists.