Appeared originally on ‘the secret keeper’ on Friday the 20th September 2013. The Film Review has been Edited and the Images have been Altered for this Expats Post Film Review of “Marnie”
“Marnie” was released to the public following “The Birds,” which was preceded by “Psycho.” At the time “Marnie” was not a financial success at the box office but has become a cult film, which this writer has seen in the triple digits since I was a kid, and feel a strong connection to it. I may have been too young to grasp all the subtleties but it enthralled me.
It is like watching a car accident for some people, I have never been able to look away. Whenever I find “Marnie” on demand or Roku these days, I know I am not going to do anything I planned. It means it’s time to watch it again. There just is something about “Marnie.” It is addicting and compelling. To watch a young woman go through so much turmoil and the people she meets all seem to be out to try and take something away from her.
In the first scene, Margaret Edgar, alias Marnie is introduced as she’s walking away from us, down the platform outside a train station. The film’s protagonist, played by Tippi Hedren of “The Birds” fame, is constantly changing her appearance away from her natural blonde, to a disguise of varying hair colors. She needs to keep changing into different identities.
She moves from job to job, always as someone different. There is a reason she does all these makeovers. On a simple level, she is a kleptomaniac, but you know it is much more complicated. She gets hired into jobs where the bosses are thrown by her beauty and convince themselves it’s ok to hire her without any references. They’re dirty old men who get the karma they deserve. She rips them off by cleaning out their secure safes.
On her next job search, this time, Mark Rutland, the owner of the company where she is applying, is visiting. He instructs the manager to hire her. Mark could not help but notice her beauty and how she pulls down her skirt just a shade, to give the appearance of being modest, when in actuality it is to lure in her victims or I like to think she is unconsciously exhibiting her dislike of any man looking at her in a sexual manner.
We learn that she’s a thief, an unstable woman who moves from job to job, changing names, physical appearance, and wardrobe.
She is hired as a secretary by Mark Rutland (Sean Connery). After he observes her pulling down the hem of her skirt, he remembers her from a previous workplace prior to a robbery and he realizes who she is. He decides he wants to study her. Unaware and unfazed, she steals money from his company’s safe and disappears.
Mark, however, is smarter than she thinks he is, and upon discovery of the theft, he searches for her and finds her. At this point, Mark announces his intent to marry her, instead of reporting her to the police. Marnie has no alternative but to comply.
Mark slowly becomes aware of Marnie’s problems, including her kleptomania and her being emotionally fragile. Eventually, he realizes she had a troubled childhood and this may lead him to discovering the cause of her problems.
Mark is sincere in wanting to help Marnie. Trying to give her a sense of hope but instead, in the beginning he causes her more pain than comfort. There is an element of a Freudian psychological condition growing within her, which needs examining and exposure, in order for her to regain any sense of balance in her life.
Mark wants to play the psychiatrist who helps her. In one scene when Marnie is having a nightmare, Lil, his first wife’s sister, [his wife died young], gets to her first, but Mark quickly dismisses Lil. He then attempts to question Marnie. It ends up being a game of free association, at Marnie’s suggestion. She says to Mark, “I bet you can’t wait to play psychiatrist.”
That’s how the game begins, as a challenge. Marnie felt she would push Mark away if she played along with his attempts to help. If she succeeded, he would just leave her alone. It backfires on Marnie. The word association starts out simple, but Mark is choosing his words well. Mark begins slowly with Marnie, but gradually begins building up the speed and starts firing the words at her until he gets to “red.”
What happens when Marnie hears this word? You need to see the film to watch how this develops and what happens when Marnie is made to confront the word “red.”
Throughout the film, the color “red” is significant, and Mark is trying to figure out what that significance is. He does want to help her but he has his own nature with which to contend. Mark keeps trying and then he gets a lead in which he feels it could resolve Marnie’s nightmares.
Mark is gentle with Marnie, once he establishes with her, he is in control. Not to destroy her, but to help her regain a sense of well-being. He realizes she has many sensitivities, one of which is her loathing the touch of a man, any man, including him. He is patient and tries to be loving, tender and understanding. But he is motivated by intense feelings of desire. Marnie is beautiful and desirable.
Near the end of the film, a mutual expression of love grows into a feeling of hope. He takes Marnie to see her mother. But before he does this he explains to her, they will work out somehow the thefts she committed. With some understanding and explaining and offering up the amount of money she stole, Mark feels people will be understanding when they discover just what Marnie went through when she was young.
Eventually, his lust and patience collide. The gentleman loses the battle with sensitivity. He is no longer, in a moment of temptation, able to hold back his urges. His need to have his wife, Marnie, overcomes his control to be reserved and understanding. He is overcome by a powerful urge to possess what he desires. In the following obvious statement, “I’ve really trapped a wild thing this time,” demonstrates some of his need to dominate and to control her completely.
Mark and Marnie show up at her mother’s place. After they literally push their way into the house past Marnie’s mom, Bernice, a lightning storm explodes outside. Marnie begins to react with fear and terror. Her mom, Bernice wants them to leave.
When Marnie tries to seek comfort from her mother now, or at any time, by resting her head in her lap, Bernice cannot handle the closeness and rejects her daughter repeatedly. She always repeats the same phrase: “Marnie, honey, you’re achin’ my leg.”
Marnie is always rejected by her mother. Their relationship is so tenuous and confusing. Marnie never understands why her mother always pushes her away.
In the final moments of the film, a great deal is explained by the scenes which show exactly why Marnie developed into the person she has become. Now you know I am not going to tell what happens in this review. It is a must see film and the ending is a real killer. I left out most of the film and just served up the edges.
The last frames of the film show Mark and Marnie driving away, heading toward the docks, there appears a ship in the harbor. There are sea gulls flying about and children are playing jump rope while singing a song.
The dock is obviously a mat but the film was made a long time ago and it does give the odd impression you are on a stage. As though the reality is all a dream. As the effect of the revealing sequence appears to be a dream.
To explain the colour “red,” it is left to the observer to put the pieces together. What does “red” symbolize to most people? Is it a fusion of sex, violence, or death? Is this the overriding emotional struggle throughout the film? These questions can only be answered by watching this visually enhancing film. The tension continually building until its conclusion, where all is revealed in a most dramatic and disturbing finale.
Marnie Edgar (Tippi Hedren)
Mark Rutland (Sean Connery)
Lil Mainwaring (Diane Baker)
Sidney Strutt (Martin Gabel)
Bernice Edgar (Louise Latham)
Cousin Bob (Bob Sweeney)
Man at the Track (Milton Selzer)
Mr. Rutland (Alan Napier)
First Detective (Henry Beckman)
Rita (Edith Evanson)
Produced and directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay: Jay Presson Allen
Based on the novel by Winston Graham
Camera: Robert Burks
Editor: George Tomasini
Music: Bernard Herrmann
Production design: Robert Boyle
Costumes: Edith Head
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