Marnie (1965)

Viewed May 14th


Marnie runs from one bad situation to another, letting her neurosis control her life, until she meets Mr. Rutland.  

The opening image of Marnie is, famously, a close shot of the contoured crevices running up the side of a yellow clutch purse. The woman holding the purse, whom we learn is Marnie, walks ahead of us and we follow. We don't see her see her face yet, just that she's dressed in a stylish black outfit, that she has black hair which looks to be a wig, and that she's walking to the end of an empty train platform. Hitchcock, the master, is instantly creating a lot of mystery and, visually, everything is directed to this yellow purse. In many Hitchcock films, the contents of this purse would be a MacGuffin, but here it's a bit more complicated. On one level the purse is meant to visually suggest a vulva, but, as such, it can also be read as a metaphor for Marnie herself, or, as things develop, for Marnie's psychosexual complexes. And with the way everything is framed here the rest of the film becomes all about opening up that purse to see what's inside. And unlike the MacGuffin, there is something non-trivial inside Marnie that needs to be revealed.

Immediately after these opening moments, Marnie becomes an interesting variant on the opening of Psycho, in which we learn that the icy Hitchcock blonde has stolen from her older male employer and is now on the run. However, instead of being killed in the shower of the Bates Motel, Marnie makes it to the end of the film, ending up meeting her match in Mark Rutland, the anti-Norman Bates, who breaks her down and opens up the purse/Marnie's mind in order to the reveal the trauma that's defined her life.

As embedded in the realm of psychology and metaphor as it is, there is a dreamlike quality to everything. And like a dream, it wanders, but, as with most revisionist takes on the film, it's ultimately one of the key Hitchcock films, particularly for those invested in the broader mythology of the Hitchcock cinematic landscape.