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Marnie and other movie rapes

A bit heavy for a tuesday morning, but I can't get it out of my mind. So I'll write it out.

I tried to watch this film again recently, and it occurs to me that it really is one of the strangest things I've ever seen. I mean, OK, possibly not as strange as men in tins fighting each other or women who spend mortgage amounts on fine shoes, but strange in a different way, a personal way.

It's Hitchcock at his most libidinously frustrated; the story focuses on Marnie, a beautiful con-artist with a deeply troubled past, trapped and forced into marriage by wealthy Mark who determines to somehow rescue her, to bring her deep secrets to the fore so that she can be cured. How will we know she's cured? Well, she'll sleep with him for a start and thereafter domestic bliss is guaranteed.

She makes it clear she doesn't want to marry him, and clear that she doesn't want sex with him. On their honeymoon night he seems to understand it, but as time goes on...well, this happens:


Rapist as Healing Messiah
I find this whole protector rapist thing so weird (quite apart from Mark's 'boning up'); he loves her and will help her, and the music is romantic, his kisses tender, almost fatherly. He's so sorry. He's still going to rape her of course, but look at his face; he loves her. We can infer any excuse. She's so beautiful, they are married after all, he's so handsome how can she not want him, it's her fault, the fault of damned nature, the depth of his love that he must possess her, the list is endless, and for passive narcissists possibly very alluring. And don't worry, the secret pain that stops her from surrendering to love will be brought out into the open, she will be healed and she will know him to be her helper, her best friend, her husband. But only cos he twooly wuvs! Then the rape thing is not rape at all, just a clumsy attempt at manifesting human desire, love that could not work at the time, because the damage was within her, not part of him. Thank god he came into her life!

Rapist as Rightful Deserver
Rape in the movies, even when delicately treated, is such a strange thing. The possibility of ambivalence seems to enchant even the most sturdy of directors; In Gone With The Wind Rhett Butler, pushed beyond endurance by, once again, a woman he knew didn't love him when he married her, snarls savagely at Scarlett, 'This is one night you're not turning me out!' He swoops her up into his arms while she feebly beats protest on his manly chest, and carries her into the bedroom. Next morning, she's all smiles and singing. Clearly, it was all she needed.

Rapist as Unstoppable Power
Kazan's adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire whilst demonstrating nothing except a smashed mirror, was much more honest. Censors apparently, could not bear the cruelty inherent within Williams' words; before the rape actually occurs, Stanley takes off his coat and says, 'We've had this date from the beginning,' inferring a long term interest in raping Blanche Dubois. This was cut. Stanley as drunken rapist seems to have been bearable. Stanley as calculating rapist looking for his moment, whose crime is 'forgotten' by his needful wife, was too much.

Even in this last depiction, the rapist is attractive.
In fact, every one of these rapists is played by a handsome and charismatic actor.

Posters on London Underground,Wake up to rape, they say. The posters will come down in a month or two's time.
The films say something different. And they stay.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 8th, 2010 10:56 am (UTC)
One of the reasons The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was so successful as a film for me was that the rapists are portrayed as simply hating women. And the effect on the women is shown as devastating and horrific.

Jun. 8th, 2010 02:42 pm (UTC)
Very interesting. I had heard that the film was graphic and misogynistic, so I didn't give it my attention. Maybe I should think again...
Jun. 8th, 2010 10:06 pm (UTC)
I had some minor niggles with it, and there's no doubt that it portrays graphically the trauma of rape - but I think it's very understanding, it certainly doesn't glorify misogyny or sexual violence. I think more it shows rape as the ultimate end result of misogyny in society and I appreciate that.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )



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