Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Marnie: A Movie Review

Alfred Hitchock's film "Marnie" is both a romance and a pop psychology study of sociopathy. Sean Connery, playing an amatuer jaguarundi-taming zoologist, traps and marries Tippi Hedron, a compulsive liar and thief who represents the ultimate challenge for him, taming the predatory American female. Hedron is also suffering from erythrophobia (fear of the color red), which drives her sociopathic behavior. Connery feels compelled to cure his wife of the early childhood trauma which lead her in adulthood to commit a series of robberies.

Apart from the questionable wisdom of trying to analyze your wife, his "treatment" tactics are also dubious from my prospective. He attempts to cure his wife through bibliotherapy---titles such as "The Sexual Deviations Of The Female Criminal" and Jung's "The Undiscovered Self", word association and abreaction. Unfortunately, none of this prevents her from shooting her horse, attempting to rob Connery's father, attempting suicide by drowning on her honeymoon and banning her husband from their honeymoon suite.

In true pop psychology form, he ultimately learns that she committed the robberies and used the loot in an attempt to buy the love of her mother. Wow! What a film. Hitchcock takes us from the horseracing track to the brothels of 1960's Baltimore to the estate of Connery's blueblood father. Along the way Hedron reveals clues to her early trauma---she freaks out at any sight of the color red and at the sound of thunder.

Since all criminal behavior is caused by an early childhood trauma, Hedron's secret is of course eventually revealed in a massive regression scene involving Connery and her creepy mother. In the final scene we find her turning gratefully to Connery to say:

"Mark...I won't go to jail for this, will I?"

He answers: "Not after what I have to tell them."

I silently answered: "You may or may not go to prison, Marnie, but you do need a good forensic psychiatrist."


This is the movie I went to in order to escape my lack of air conditioning this past weekend. Dinah wanted a review, so here it is. It was fun.


Anonymous said...

To be fair, the Winston Graham book that the movie was based on was a little more believable. Hitchcock changed a lot of the details (including the optimistic ending) to make it work better as a movie.

Roy said...

I watched this last night on DVD (I have a Hitchcock collection and never got around to seeing them all).

Yes, the remarkable resolution of Marnie's misandrony after finally recalling her childhood trauma was a bit too trite, but permitted a happy movie ending.

I left thinking that maybe she was not a sociopath (more concerned about her mother than herself, love of her horse, apparent resolution of symptoms as a result of some combination of the big revelation and of the unconditional love of Sean Connery) but maybe it was all driven by PTSD and the need to continually re-experience elements of the original trauma.

Marie said...

The Winston Graham book was so much better than the movie in terms of making more sense. The Mark character actually gets her real professional help and the background for her pathology is different.

But the story still begs the question, how hot could she possibly have been for him to marry such a nutter!?!

Anonymous said...

I can't figure out how the heroine withstood the advances of the handsome Sean Connery. I wanted the ending to show some emotion between them. After all, he had been very patient!

moviedoc said...

I have to agree with Roy. I didn't see Marnie as likely sociopathic. Her stealing was portrayed as symptomatic of her trauma. Euthanizing her horse was humane and painful, tended to prove absence of socopathy. As for marrying a "nutter" Mark admitted he wasn't perfect.