With the recent death of actress Joan Fontaine, I am reminded of a favorite film: Rebecca (1940.) The movie is remarkable, aside from the extraordinary performances from the three main leads: Laurence Olivier, Fontaine, and Judith Anderson, for its exploration of physiological alienation and human obsession. At its heart, Rebecca is about broken people, their traumas, how life left them wounded and scarred, and what they did to survive in the aftermath. The protagonist, Maximilian de Winter, was married to a beautiful, but devious nymphomaniac socialite named Rebecca; who died under rather mysterious circumstances. Trying to escape his past, he quickly remarried, this time, to a somewhat bookish, socially awkward, and plain woman – played by Fontaine. Upon returning to his ancestral home, the new Mrs. de Winter is quickly set upon by the lesbian former chambermaid (Mrs. Danvers) of Rebecca. Since Rebecca’s death, Mrs. Danvers has kept the de Winter home as a permanent mausoleum to its former mistress. Her character mirrors the homosexual mind: locked in the recessive effects of shock and disappoint, unable to cope with reality, instead, fortifying itself away in a make-believe world of fantasy. In the end, her fixation destroys her. The hero and heroine only escape a similar fate by finally revealing, and ultimately dealing with, the pain and the truth.
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