Netflix's Rebecca: A Reboot or Re-interpretation?

Rebecca follows a young woman in her 20’s (Lily James) who works as a companion for Mrs. Van Hopper (Ann Dowd). This story begins in the middle of their stay at a hotel in the Monti Carlo hotel. One morning, Lily James’s character catches the eye of Maxim DeWinter (Armie Hammer) a widower who decides to pursue something he does not call love, but a step away from being lonely. Lily James’s character finds herself falling so in love with Mr. DeWinter (as does he with her), but just as their connection becomes more intimate, Mrs. Van Hopper decides she wants to leave Europe as soon as possible. When met with this news, Lily James’s character rushes to Mr. DeWinter with the news who also cannot fathom a life without her so he decides to marry her. So, they get married and the new Mrs. DeWitner is brought to her husband’s house in Manderley in the English countryside. What the new Mrs. DeWinter did not have planned however is being haunted by the legacy of Maxim DeWinter’s first wife Rebecca long after her death. 

I have seen throughout the weeks prior, as well as comments surging after its release that this is a reboot of Alfred Hitchcock's film 1940 film Rebecca. Threads and comments have been posted with criticism, many believing this newer version of this story is merely a poor adaptation of one of Hitchcock's best films. What I feel people fail to realize is that Rebecca is a book by the English gothic writer Delphine du Maurier from 1938 and is not a Hitchcock original creation. For critics to say that this is just another ‘reboot’ is entirely ridiculous. I respect the work Alfred Hitchcock created in his time, I understand that he has influenced modern cinema in more ways than one, and I am an admirer of his work. We must not allow our criticism to be shallow because a modern film is being compared to the work of a legendary filmmaker. After comparing each interpretation of Rebecca to the 1938 book by Delphine du Maurier, I can say one thing is for sure, Hitchcock’s version follows the events of the book the most accurately. When listening to the Rebecca audiobook and after re-watching Hitchcock’s interpretation, I could see the book unravelling on-screen scene for scene. Certainly, following the source material and being true to an author's vision is important, but Hitchcock’s Rebecca lacked one major element, emotional depth.

When watching the new interpretation of Daphne du Maurier’s book without reading the book or viewing Hitchcock’s version prior, it was quite enjoyable. Viewing the great performances by Armie Hammer and Lily James blew me away and this story builds in a satisfying way and nothing feels forced. As a viewer who went into this film clueless, I was able to see the growth of the new relationship, the loneliness of the yet to be Mrs. DeWinter, and the strain of the thought of Rebecca on Mrs. DeWinter. This film, in my opinion, showed more emotional depth and breakdown of Mrs. DeWinter's character compared to Hitchcock's version. For the 2020 Mrs. DeWinter, it seems like every waking moment is a reminder that Rebecca still lives on. Whether be on a napkin, a coat, a painting, a party, letters, just about anything. We see this reach a breaking point after she was humiliated for wearing a dress Rebecca wore (suggested by Miss. Danvers) to one of her famous balls and was almost convinced to jump out of a window to try and escape this noose of Rebecca’s presence. 

The 2020 interpretation felt like we are being guided through the mystery of Rebecca just as Mrs. DeWinter is which makes it an exciting experience. The 2020 adaption of Rebecca stays true to the characters and the story created by Delphine Du Maurier. The only thing that really changes is the sequence of events and reveals to fit a modern audience. At the end of the day, these two films are from two different eras of cinema, they share the same story, but each are respectively different visions.