My Cousin Rachel

There are two reaons for me to watch this movie: I’ve not visited the cinema in two months, and this movie is based on Daphne du Maurier’s 1951 novel (which I know I would otherwise not read because I did not understand her Rebecca that I had to read as part of my English Literature course when I was 18 or 19).

The title is translated as “Black Widow” in the Chinese subtitles, and I soon realised how appropriate it is. Rachel (Rachel Weisz) is a widow, and dressed in black throughout except in the last scene (and when she is in her nightie in an earlier scene).

The narrative at the opening scene: “Did she? Or didn’t she? Who is to blame?” (by Philip – played by Sam Claflin) is repeated at the closing scene. The story is told with his point of view.

Philip is an orphan (played by four child actors, including Austin Taylor and Louis Suc) who grows up with his wealthy cousin Ambrose (who marries his cousin Rachel). Ambrose dies in mysterious circumstances and Philip suspects Rachel to be the cause. He is bent on seeking justice for Ambrose but the moment he sets sight on Rachel he loses his head and heart. . .

The classic story and the cinematography aside, what I enjoyed most was the music. The few traditional songs, and especially J. S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in G Major are used to excellent effect. The tempo of the piece is swift and lively, dominated by sixteenth-notes and triplet groups, reflecting the complicated and treacherous structure. This Bach piece, like du Maurier’s novel, sets out as a harmonically determined piece but the tentative melodic features soon arise and develop into independent entities. The rhythm (the use of syncopation) captures the tension from false starts and imperfections rising throughout the peice. The closing imperfect cadence is also metrically not a satisfactory solution.

Views of the beautiful coasts of England, the woods, the hills and farm (with horses and sheep-herding and grass-cutting activities), taken from various angles are breathtaking. The visual and special effects, and the stunts, are excellent.

2 thoughts on “My Cousin Rachel

  1. Dear Florence, I was considering watching My Cousin Rachel recently and went to Internet to read the Review and Wikipedia. I then realised that it was from a story written by Dalphne du Maurier. In your post, you mentioned studying ‘Rebecca’ and found the story confusing (did you say? ) because you were young then. Well, ‘ Rebecca’ was such a famous book that I probably read it before and forgotten most of it. Just about two years ago, I decided to re-read some of her shorter stories and went back to Rebecca. This time around, I appreciated the story better and also the techniques and language she used. My point in this email is to encourage you to revisit Rebecca with new eyes. Your friend, Grace

    Liked by 1 person

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