Unloved Hitchcock 2: MARNIE (1964)
MARNIE is probably one of Hitchcock’s most divisive films. For some, this is the great director’s last masterpiece whereas for others it sadly shows that Hitchcock was losing his touch near the end of an iconic career.
The main problem with MARNIE – and it was a issue which had dragged down other films in Hitchcock’s catalogue – is the coldness of it all. Tippi Hedren in the title role is wooden and with Connery intent on possessing Marnie he’s consequently the real villian of the movie. That means we are left with absolutey no-one to care about. It’s the same kind of feeling I experience when watching VERTGIGO (1958). But unlike that movie, here the script is weak and there are pieces of almost incredulous dialogue. Whilst it pains me to say so, Hitchcock’s use of red filters and dizzying zoom shots comes across to modern audiences as a tad amateurish.
Bernard Hermann’s score would be his last for Hitchcock (at least the last Hitchcock would actually use) and whilst it’s solid, there is nothing new or innovative about it. You could well make a case that Hermann’s score is over-dramatic and ill-fitting to the subject matter too. Lastly and this aspect of the film really does frustrate me, in term of pacing, MARNIE is miraculously slow. There’s nothing to come close to the drive of Hitchcock’s earlier “man-on-the-run” thrillers and because Marnie’s character is so coolily detached, the “MacGuffin” around her motives barely registers significant interest.
Despite the evident weaknesses there are, as always with Hitchcock, elements to cherish. This director never made a boring film. The expressionist production design is gorgeous and harks back to Hitchcock’s time in German cinema of the 20s. Further, there are three sequences which sit amongst the director’s best. The first uses a natural split-screen shot to build suspense: at the end of a busy day, Marnie breaks into a safe on the right-hand side of the frame whilst a cleaner slowly edges closer to Marnie and the safe from the left-hand side (NB: for fanboys like me, the cleaner is the maid from the fantastic ROPE (1948)). The second is when Marnie’s former employer (played by an under-used Martin Gabel) appears at a party hosted by Marnie and her new husband, and instantly recognises her as the identity-switching thief that she is. The third is the elegant opening shot of Marnie walking alone along a train platform.
Unfortunately, MARNIE is afflicted by an unhealthy desire to make Hedren a movie star and she just wasn’t (note the frequent use – or perhaps the correct word is ‘abuse’ – of close-ups of Hedren’s face, body and hair). It’s something the film never quite gets over. When you add that to a distinct lack of likeable characters, it’s an aesthetically interesting but hollow movie.
hotdog rating: 5/10