Monday 13 August
Marnie had a lukewarm reception. Audiences expected killer birds or mother-fixated murderers, not "instant psychiatry". Even Hitchcock warned fans they might not get what they expected.
Marnie (Tippi Hedren) is a serial thief: she stays in a job long enough to learn the safe combination before stuffing her handbag with cash and moving on. But there's something wrong: she can't bear to be touched, and a flash of red gladioli or a splash of red ink on her sleeve sends her into a paroxysm of terror. Marnie is caught out by new boss Mark Rutland (a dashing Sean Connery), who blackmails her into marrying him and sets about trying to analyse her.
Marnie is technically brilliant, the suspense shots are some of Hitchcock's best. A shot so wide it looks like split screen; Marnie empties a safe while a cleaning lady mops closer and closer to witnessing the crime. But the classic Hitchcock theme of sexuality is also taken somewhere disturbing. It's a film about ownership. "I've tracked you and caught you and now I'm going to keep you," Mark tells Marnie.
In a troubling scene that cost the film's second scriptwriter his job (he thought it should be cut: for Hitchcock it was the whole point) Mark takes what he sees as rightfully his. Marnie stares blankly past the camera as it bears down on her.
Marnie owns nothing she hasn't stolen. She's even the result of an ownership transaction – conceived in a tryst paid for by a baseball sweatshirt. Her mother, who won't give her love, keeps possession of her past.
Geoff Dyer wrote about artist Martijn Hendriks's pure paranoia version of The Birds with the birds digitally removed, but Marnie is Hitchcock's own attempt at removing the birds. There's no papier-mache horror needed here. The fear and anxiety are in Marnie's past, invisible even to her.