Tuesday, August 18, 2009

More Hitchcock: Marnie versus Vertigo

From what I've gathered, most people consider Vertigo Hitchcock's greatest masterpiece. It is a beautifully shot movie, with one of Hitch's favorite actors, Jimmy Stewart, and the gorgeous Kim Novak in a sort of dual role. It has suspense and neurosis and an unexpected ending, all of those things that we all love from a Hitchcock movie. Yet, I just do not like it. Not even a little bit. I re-watched it last week, and I've been trying to figure out why it doesn't work for me when it ought to. I think I've finally figured it out. It's utterly sad and hopeless.

Now, don't get me wrong. I like a good downbeat, depressing movie. I'm not one of those people who needs a happy ending in order to feel I've gotten my money's worth. But you get kind of lulled into the Hitchcock formula. Yes, it's going to be a bumpy night, but there will be some sort of redemption or hope or reward at the end. Even in Psycho, there's a feeling that all has been set right by the close of the film. And whenever Hitchcock sets up a romantic coupling, they usually end up together with a future by the time the credits roll. Not so in Vertigo. The movie is entirely dedicated to obsession, loss and sadness, without redemption or cure. Maybe I don't like seeing the always sympathetic Jimmy Stewart more messed up at the end of the movie than he was at the beginning, with really no hope of finding whatever it is that he needs. Nothing is set right. There may be a small flash of justice, but not a satisfying enough one for me.

And then you have Marnie, a lesser known Hitchcock movie, with a strikingly young Sean Connery and Miss Tippi Headron from The Birds. Hitch called it a "sexual thriller," and it's certainly not a light and happy film by any means. But Marnie herself is such an intriguing character, and an amazingly modern one. If the movie were made today, it would be hailed as brilliant. There are several scenes in the movie that cause me to wince with discomfort. I won't spoil it for those of you reading this who may not have seen it yet, but you will know them when you see them. It borders on brutal several times. But you get a payoff with an ending that satisfies for all you've watched. It has, for lack of a better word, closure, with an evenly matched romantic pair and some kind of settling to all of the brutality and confusion that preceded it.

All of the movie scholars would certainly disagree with me, but I doubt that I'll ever watch Vertigo again. Marnie I would re-watch even if I caught it half-way through on TCM.


  1. I have to do it. I have to disagree. hahaha.
    I love Vertigo.
    But I also abhor happy endings. :)

  2. It's okay. I'm not a huge fan of the tacked on happy ending either. I just don't care for that movie for some reason. Am I missing something?