The Other Side of Hitchcock
By IAN CAMERON
THERE are two oppos- ing points of view about Hitchcock. Therefore, without any exaggera- tion, there are two com- pletely different ways of looking at the cinema.
What might be called the orthodox viewpoint What might be called the orthodox viewpoint
is that Hitchcock is one of the cinema's most adept craftsmen. He can make thrillers, and was at his best in the Thirties when he made just thrillers. Since then his work has become over-extended.
To the other group, who must seem to the orthodox critics like the Lumpa Church of film criticism, Hitch is one of the cinema's greatest directors, whose work, far from being 'just thrillers,' demands attention on every intellectual level. To make a thriller is not to renounce ambitions beyond telling the story, bin to choose this particular genre as a means of expression. Hitchcock communiCates better (i.e. more) to his audience than any other director.'
The critics who write in the British and American press, belong almost exclusively to the orthodox wing. As a member of the other side, feel that the odds are unfairly weighted against the minority. So I am going to retutn to a film
that others have already reviewed and outline a second• opinion on Mande which starts its Rank general release at the end of the month.
It is a film of such complexity that, after three ' viewings, I feel that I have hardly begun to understand it, but each time, new layers of meaning have revealed themselves. Hitchcock films are designed for more than one viewing. They're great first time, but they get ever better on subsequent visits when one can look at them without being primarily involved with the suspense. However, it's a measure of Hitchcock's greatness that even when one knows exactly what will happen next, one is still on the edge of the seat in the suspense sequences.
Mande is the story of a Freudian cure: its heroine is a kleptomaniac. Far from being a
'Freudian apologia, though, the film only refers to the doctor and his followers in the most flippant of terms, Marnie's terms: 'You Freud, me Jane.' 'Know thyself' hardly came as the latest com- mand from Vienna. At least since Sophocles, one of the basic forms of drama has been the growth of self-knowledge in a protagonist. Marnie, at the end of the film, learns what has caused her kleptomania and her frigidity. She is therefore cured.
She also discovers her error in thinking that her mother doesn't love her. Hitchcock, as a Catholic, places great value on the role of motherhood. The end of the film sees a re- establishment of the natural relationship between Bernice Edgar and her daughter, in place of some very unnatural relationships. Marnie was jealous of the attention lavished by her mother on the little girl she looked after (a very nasty
little girl who exploits Bernice's affection and her similarity to Marnie as a girl in a grossly spiteful manner). Where Marnie is repelled by the idea of sex with her husband, Mark, his late wife's younger sister, whom the couple brought up when she was a child, would obviously have been only too happy to make up for Marnie's deficiencies. At the end of the film, the repressed truths come out and the natural order is ,re- established. But the past truths are even nastier than the present situation.
Hitchcock's great gift is for involving us in the emotions of the people on the screen. He has often managed to do this even when the actors gave inadequate performances or when the chbracters were quite unsympathetic. The nature of the cinema is such that we normally identify with a character, and Hitchcock has managed to harness this identification as the basis of suspense, which draws us further into complicity with the characters, here with Marnie. We cannot condemn her stealing when we are made' to identify with her by the building of suspense.
In Winston Graham's novel there was a psychiatrist, but in the film the part is amalga- mated with that of the husband, whose part has become as important as Marnie's. His interest before Marnie arrived was animal behaviour, and continual parallels are drawn between forcing her into marriage and trapping wild animals to tame. Ostensibly! an exploration of Marnie's perversion, the film becomes increas- ingly involved with Mark's. Like the James Stewart character in Vertigo, Mark realises the masturbatory dream of having a woman com- pletely in his power. We identify with him when, on his shipboard honeymoon, he finally decides to take his marital rights, even though we know that the only possible method is effectively rape.
The 'question in the film is not why Marnie is a frigid kleptomaniac (that is answered half- way through), but why Mark wants to marry one. Hitchcock brings the audience to see this by his favourite method: making them identify and then showing them what they are identifying with.
Mark's idea that he, as a sane person, is helping Marnie is thrown back in his face just as he has suggested that she read some psychological books: 'Start with The Undiscovered Self.' She rounds on him with 'What about your dreams, Daddy dear?' Through his interest in her sick- ness, she has understood his. Immediately after, she tricks him into a free association experiment which has such drastic results that she ends sobbing, `Help me, Mark!' And he does. At the end of the film he has helped her towards a cure and, in a way, she has helped him by her new willingness to accept a normal relationship, which removes the focus for his perversion. The
psychologically unbalanced leading the psycholo- gically unbalanced is a modern equivalent for ginners helping each other to achieve some sort of grace. As in all Hitchcock films, the process is started by chance, or, according to taste, the will of God, a role which is played by the director.