coisas bem explicadas

Marnie, Alfred Hitchcock, 1964

“Marnie” is the film in which Hitchcock’s method reaches the breaking point—in which Hitchcock, the master of control, loses control. When I first saw the movie, decades ago, I was still unaware of the horrifying backstory to its creation—Hitchcock’s sexual harassment of its star, Tippi Hedren. The drama itself is a story of sexual violence, which is inflicted both physically and mentally by the lead male character, a wealthy businessman named Mark Rutland (played by Sean Connery) on Hedren’s title character. The movie’s story and its backstory converge, rendering the cruelty that went into its production palpable in the viewing. 

 Hitchcock films the story with a wide-eyed, astonished, fascinated, and disturbed camera stare that seems to shudder and tremble every time Hedren is onscreen. Even the director’s cameo—in which he watches Hedren walking down a hotel corridor and then turns back to look at the camera, shamefacedly caught in his own leer—suggests his self-aware sense of visual carnality. The images offer an extraordinary swing between blasts of heat and an eerie chill, sometimes bringing the two together. Even the film’s exterior locations have a fluorescent buzz that captures an ambient sense of derangement. 


 “Marnie” isn’t a horror movie, but it’s a movie of horrors, and those horrors are all connected to sex. If there’s one constant in Hitchcock’s career, it’s sex—sexual desire, sexual aversion, sexual fear, sexual repression, sexual gratification—as the engine of human society at both its best (its occasional acts of heroism) and its worst (the crimes that he films with such cunning and such unnerving relish). Hedren’s performance is one of the greatest in the history of cinema, and it’s inseparable from the pathology of Hitchcock’s approach to her, personal and cinematic. Marnie is a woman who is othered to the vanishing point—whose identity is both elusive and absolute, exalted to the height of his passion and thus rendered utterly passive, statue-like, inhuman and inanimate in the presence of desire. It’s exactly what Hedren had and what Hitchcock elicited; she may not have been the most comprehensively trained actress in Hollywood, but she has a singular presence that mixes alertness and abstraction, a presence that’s at the same time an absence, and he pushes it to its extreme. 

The greatness of Hitchcock’s artistry, the musical sublimity of his images and the emotional power of his stories, isn’t separable from his carnality—rather, his greatness depends upon the worst and most bestial aspects of his character. Without them, he’d be the artisan of cinematic cuckoo clocks, and what’s all too often celebrated in the name of Hitchcock mania is precisely an abstracted craft that’s isolated from its source of power, from its dynamic principle, from its raison d’être.

Richard Brody, "Marnie" is the cure for Hitchcock mania, The New Yorker