News broke a year ago that someone was eying a new version of Rebecca, and it seems as though the project is indeed moving forward. Two days ago, it was announced not only that a script has been drafted but also that Danish director Nikolaj Arcel is attached to the project.
Inevitably, backlash against “remaking a Hitchcock film” started anew.
The timing of the announcement in particular struck me. Not a week ago, I used the new version of Rebecca as an example in my defense of readaptations.
I won’t rehash all my arguments from that post, but the main idea is this: Hitchcock did not create the story; it began as a novel by Daphne du Maurier. Why shouldn’t we see a new adaptation?
That said, here are five reasons why I, as a fan of both the book and the 1940 film, am terribly excited about the prospect of a new film.
1. As good as the film is, no adaptation is perfect
The whole point of adapting a work for the screen is to illuminate it in a new way. But a screen adaptation will always be just one way of looking at it. I love the Hitchcock film – as of now, it’s the only classic movie I own on Blu-ray – and as hard as it will be for me to see someone other than Joan Fontaine as the second Mrs. De Winter, I would love to see what a new take on the story and what a new actress as the lead could bring to the table. Remember, readaptations are not remakes – there’s more than one way to examine every story.
2. A new version could leave the novel’s ending intact, which wasn’t possible in 1940
If I have one qualm about the 1940 film, it’s the ending. I won’t divulge the details here – the end of my From Book to Film post on Rebecca contains my thoughts on the changes, if you’re interested – but certain elements were changed to comply with the Hays Code. Today, we would be able to see the somewhat more sinister resolution as du Maurier intended it.
3. The 1940 film will still be there for us
Hitchcock’s film isn’t going anywhere. A new version wouldn’t “ruin” it or make it obsolete. It’s survived for 73 years, and it will still be regarded as a classic. The new movie might even encourage others who wouldn’t normally watch a classic movie to rent the Hitchcock version.
4. It could help the struggling musical
This might be wishful thinking on my part, but the Broadway production of the Austrian musical version of Rebecca has been struggling to mount, and I can only hope that talk surrounding the film might help it get the financial backing – or at least the positive buzz – it needs. Just imagine if the musical were running on Broadway when the movie comes out; it would be great testament to legacy of the book. Which leads me to…
5. It could introduce new readers to Daphne du Maurier
Rebecca is a classic book but not one that’s as common as the likes of Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, or East of Eden, for example. I know that I only picked it up last summer. But as soon as I started reading it, it transfixed me. And if a new film can make others pick up the book – and other du Maurier novels – that can only be a good thing.