‘She was the most beautiful creature I ever saw’: visualising replacement in Hitchcock’s Rebecca
In this chapter, I consider the topic ‘replacement’ through Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 film adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel Rebecca. How can the rich and aristocratic widower, Maxim de Winter, replace his charismatic, glamorous first wife, Rebecca, with the young and naïve narrator/protagonist of the novel and film? Hitchcock weaves the ‘Rebecca web’ around his heroine with all the subtlety of cinema and its power of visualisation so that the internalisation of the unbalanced power relationship between the replacement and Rebecca is woven into the film’s aural and visual rhetoric. Ultimately, the resolution depends on an exorcism: the second Mrs de Winter’s imagination is finally freed from Rebecca’s hold with an ending in which the sentimental story triumphs over the residue of the gothic.