Rebecca (1940) and the Aesthetic of Gothic Suspense

 This paper examines the elements gothic suspense Alfred Hitchcock’s first American film Rebecca. Transcribed to the silver screen from Daphne du Maurier’s gothic novel, Rebecca is a truly Hitchcockian thriller with an expert combination of size, scale, nature, and architecture. The macabre natural sets and ornate Victorian architecture both establish the film as a gothic suspense. More than that, these elements also run through the subtext of the film, acting as potent symbols and manifestations of the late Rebecca. True to his reputation, Hitchcock’s first American production is filled with the brilliant stylistic choice of manipulating scale and space to evoke not only suspense (while it is the primary function of these scenes), but also love. The mansion of Manderley takes the stage in this film, and the remarkably versatile Hitchcock speaks through it—with the foggy, wooded grounds, the soaring gothic peaks, sweeping shots of the oppressively large manor, and claustrophobic confrontations between the unnamed protagonist, “I,” and the cold housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. While the authentic acting and compelling writing certainly contribute to the film’s success, it is Hitchcock’s dark brush that masterfully colors Rebecca with drama and suspense.

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