Director - Alfred Hitchcock
I have not read the original novel and only had the most basic understanding of the plot.... basically, I knew enough to know that the sketch 2:30 into the video below was based on Rebecca:
you may as well watch it all because Big Train is amazing
But I couldn't have told you what actually happens in the story. I think this is the best way to view the film, because it really heightens the fantastic series of twists and turns.
The story (which has apparently been sanitised slightly from the book which is even more morbid) follows a protagonist who is never given a first name (creating a weird distance and sense of formality between her and the viewer) as she marries above her station and is permanently belittled by the memory of his ex wife. Joan Fontaine is wonderful in this role. She manages to have a whole load of small town charm and elegance. However, she is also very much out of her comfort zone and frequently stressed and upset. You really sympathise with the character and want things to sort out for her.
The story starts fairly mundanely, as a film it is very much of its period and has dated quite badly in places (I particularly enjoyed the condescending attitude to those 'silly little women') and the scenes in Monte Carlo move quite slowly. However, Hitchcock's skill has always been tension and once the action moves away from the courting and into the stately home of Manderlay, the film really picks up.
There are secrets and mysteries which have not been explained, and Max De Winter's first wife Rebecca is at the heart of it all - her legacy clear not only in the sheer magnitude of objects with a monogrammed R, but also in the attitude of the servants. The most notable, and brilliant, is the creepy character of Mrs Danvers. A solemn figure who seems lurking behind all of Mrs De Winter's social faux pas and embarrassments. She is clearly a nasty piece of work, but might there be more to her?
And thats where I want to end it really.... Because the final act of the film is just an incredible barrage of twists, revelations and dramatic moments. None of which I really saw coming. They are also timed to perfection, so just as you recover from one game-changing statement, the next one hits you.
Accept that the film will begin slowly and pompously, and you're in for a treat. A complex and rewarding mystery that is explained in a third act which moves at an oddly breakneck pace after the first two far slower acts.