Hitchcock’s wonderful Marnie (1964) on ABC 2 tonight reminds me of the curious place that water and drowning have in his movies. The first Mrs de Winter who goes to the bottom of the ocean in her yacht in Rebecca; Kim Novak throwing herself into the Bay in Vertigo; Tippi Hedren trying to kill herself in the pool in Marnie, and even the shower scene in Psycho.

I haven’t quite worked out what’s going on here, and I’m sure Hitchcock himself wasn’t conscious of how he used drowning women in the films. it just fitted the story. Each one is central to the story, yet all are different. They are significant, not so much in themselves, but for what they trigger, reveal, unfold, set in motion.

The drowning woman is an image used in a variety of ways by Hitchcock, but always with this intense emotional resonance which helps power the plot of each story.

One day I’ll check through his early silent movies for other examples of a woman being indirectly ‘killed’ in this way, as Marnie is – trying to drown herself after her husband Mark (Sean Connery) forces himself on her. It’s about something which seems desired and feared at the same time – our capacity to hurt and also to save from hurt – and isn’t that the essence of power over others, and our dilemma of what to do with it?

Written by : Paul Morgan

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