Sometimes referred to as a “ghost story without a ghost,” Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel Rebecca is considered a key touchpoint for both gothic romance and psychological thrillers in general. Alfred Hitchcock adapted Rebecca into one of his finest films in 1940, ultimately walking away with an Academy Award for Best Picture, and a legacy as one of the decade’s most iconic thrillers. And now, we have a first look at director Ben Wheatley’s adaption of the same material for Netflix, in the first trailer for the new Rebecca.
This is a story of love, abuse and the hidden misdeeds of powerful families, as a young lady’s maid (Lily James) meets a man far above her social set—the charming and mysterious Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer). Before she even knows quite what has happened, the woman falls head over heels for her new benefactor, agreeing to become his wife and move to the stately grounds of his sprawling estate, Manderley. There, she finds herself totally unprepared for the responsibilities inherent to presiding as a “great lady” over a great estate, and is resented by the house’s staff, who are constantly comparing her to de Winter’s deceased first wife, Rebecca. But what really happened to the first Mrs. de Winter? And what does this new locale have in store for the second?
Director Ben Wheatley does seem like a natural for this sort of material, as his personal style has often trended toward psychological thrillers with dark undercurrents of potential violence, such as Kill List and Sightseers. One does wonder how far Netflix will be willing to push the boundaries, but the casting seems solid—who better to embody the suave nature of a part made famous by Laurence de Olivier than Armie Hammer? Perhaps a bigger test will be to see how Lily James handles an iconic protagonist role that was played by Joan Fontaine in Hitchcock’s version. This would seem to be a role that will require significantly more intensity than the likes of Cinderella or Baby Driver.
Rebecca, and its maybe ghosts, appropriately hits Netflix on Oct. 21, 2020. Check out the trailer below.