Movies/Television

Revisiting the film ‘Rebecca’.

A few months ago, I listened to the audiobook of Rebecca, which was the perfect excuse to watch the 1940 film version all over again. This film introduced me to the book when I was a kid and has been one of my favourites ever since.

The film stays reasonably close to the book, where the young, nameless protagonist marries Maxim de Winter, owner of Manderley. Here she is witness to constant reminders of Rebecca, his former wife so that she believes Maxim is still in love with her. The constant reminder of his first wife is strengthened by the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. Played by Judith Anderson, she does a brilliant job of portraying a cold, vindictive, and jealous character. Mrs. Danvers is loyal to Rebecca, almost to the point of obsession.

This obsession is revealed in its full glory during the scene where Mrs. Danvers shows the new Mrs de Winter around Rebecca’s bedroom for the first time. The room has not changed since the day Rebecca died and is immaculate. The curtains, the furniture, even down to the embroidery, it truly is a beautiful room. Like many of the other sets, a lot of work went into making this one. So much so, I wouldn’t have minded a room like that myself. 😉

Joan Fontaine does a great job as the shy, tormented Mrs de Winter and Laurence Oliver also portrays a convincing Maxim de Winter. Perhaps it was due to his portrayal that I have always seen Maxim and the new Mrs de Winter in a father/daughter relationship, rather than any great romance.

The suspense in this film has a slow, gradual build, heightening the tension and the mystery surrounding Rebecca. You do not see any images of her, but one does not have to because the characters help to build a picture in the viewers’ minds, adding to the suspense. This is what Alfred Hitchcock excelled at.

The special effects are of-course dated, but it still helps with the overall mood of the film, especially when it comes to Manderley itself. Despite this, I think the film is a masterpiece of the Gothic genre and one of Hitchcock’s greatest works.

What I’ve been watching this past month:-

Supernatural, Season One (Amazon Prime Video)

This series follows brothers Sam and Dean Winchester as they search for their missing father, who is on the trail of the daemon that killed their mother over twenty years ago. I had watched this season of Supernatural some years ago, but then somehow forgot all about it. I enjoy the stories, which include urban legends, as well as the banter between the brothers, and the efforts they go to when it comes to involving themselves in investigations. I now have a lot of catching up to do with the Winchester brothers!

Deadwater Fell (Foxtel)
After a house fire kills a mother and her three children, the only remaining survivor is her husband. Investigators discover all five were drugged, and that this ideal family was far from happy. There are a few twists in this show so that the viewer questions who is responsible. With David Tennent in the lead role, he plays a character I was not at all expecting.

Downton Abbey, Season One (Amazon Prime Video)

The first series of this popular drama follows the lives of the Crawley family and their staff after the sinking of the Titanic, leading up to the events of WWI. I have watched the first five seasons of this show before, but have never seen the sixth, and final season. I am watching them all again for this very purpose, as well as taking note of the first couple of seasons for research. My favourite characters were always Sybil Crawley and the Dowager Countess, played by Maggie Smith.

What have you been watching this month? Have you been re-visiting some old favourites? Do you have a favourite character from Downton Abbey or Supernatural?

Writing

Genre Writing – Gothic Fiction.

Recently I have been questioning what my chosen genres as a writer really are.  Then I experienced my ‘light bulb’ moment and wondered why I had not thought of it before.  I was about ten years old when I discovered Anya Seton’s Dragonwyck.  That book really reeled me in and I’ve read it many times since and it inspired me to read more within the genre of gothic fiction.

Gothic fiction combines both horror (psychological and/or physical) and romance.  There is a heavy emphasis on atmosphere in order to help build suspense.  Gothic fiction usually deals with past eras, using medieval settings or in more modern times Victorian England and pre Civil War Southern United States.

Gothic elements usually include some of the following:

  • Medieval setting, usually in a castle or 19th century mansion
  • An atmosphere of mystery and suspense
  • Supernatural or other inexplicable events, which can include ghosts, werewolves and monsters
  • Women in distress
  • An ancient prophecy, omens , visions, dark secrets
  • A tyrannical male, villains and Byronic heroes
  • Mad characters
  • Romance

Stories that are considered gothic fiction include The Mysteries of Udolpho, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Rebecca and of-course Edgar Allan Poe.  Some of the works by Charles Dickens and Stephen King are considered to be that of gothic fiction.  And who could forget Jane Austen’s take on it all in Northanger Abbey?

What I love about gothic fiction is that it combines horror, suspense, mystery/crime, the supernatural, history and romance – all genres I enjoy reading; it all fits under one big umbrella.  So that’s who I am – a writer of gothic fiction.

Do you enjoy gothic fiction?  Do you have a favourite?  If you’re a writer, have you experienced a ‘light bulb’ moment in your chosen genre/s?

Free image by Simon Howden courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Writing

Writing and the Influence of Film.

When I was about twelve years old I began reading in earnest, and read just about anything I could possibly get my hands on.  Stories that scared me always held my interest, or stories that kept me guessing with what might happen next.  Surprisingly, my love of stories out of the ordinary came from film.  It was film that made me a reader.

My family and I spent a lot of time going out to the movies and the drive-in (remember them?)  There was a time, during one of these family outings to the movies that changed my life. When I was about eight years old, we saw Picnic at Hanging Rock, and because it remained a mystery, it began to haunt me. People don’t just disappear; there had to be an answer.Psycho house

We also watched a lot of television. Perhaps it was because my parents were of an older generation that they watched the old black and white movies, introducing me to them as well.  It was the movies of Alfred Hitchcock that really grabbed my attention over all.  Watching Psycho, Rebecca and The Birds; that ‘edge of your seat excitement’, where I was always eager to find out what was going to happen next.  Unexpected plot twists or unhappy endings did not faze me at all; that was all part of the suspense.

The combination of both film and books has inspired me to write mysteries and horror with supernatural elements. When I completed my first short story, I gave it to my husband to read, who called it ‘macabre’.  It was only a couple of years ago, that as a member of the Central West Writers’ Centre, I applied for a consultation with Peter Bishop, Director of Varuna – The Writers House.  After having read the first three chapters of one of my novels, a vampire story, he said he was reminded of Alfred Hitchcock.  Having the film director influence my childhood, naturally I considered this high praise.  I knew I was onto something.

Movies today don’t hold the same appeal to me.  Apart from a few exceptions, I’ve seen a lot of them that are heavy on special effects and little on story.  I like a good story – that’s why I became a writer in the first place.

Image copyright Paramount Pictures