Tippi Hedren is one of a long line of blondes who appeared in Hitchcock films. These include Ingrid Bergman (Notorious), Grace Kelly (To Catch a Thief, Dial M for Murder, Rear Window), Eva Marie Saint (North by Northwest), and Kim Novak (Vertigo). All of these actresses were capable of looking like blonde ice goddesses, but also conveyed a sense that the ice would melt. Tippi, however, is an ice goddess, and she doesn’t have the inner warmth that is there in Grace or Kim, or any of the other blondes.
The story is interesting though, and Hitchcock with an inadequate actress is still better than many other directors with better actresses.
The story centers on a pretty thief, Marnie, who has problems with men. Sean Connery plays one of her victims who also falls in love with her and marries her. Marnie’s problems with men (frigidity) and her thievery turn out to be related, and the film turns on a search for the events that triggered her need to steal and her frigidity. Hitchcock had an interest in psychology, particularly Freudian psychoanalysis. You can see this in Spellbound and Psycho, and probably other films as well.
Hitchcock’s Catholicism and his interest in psychoanalysis go together. Given Freud’s atheism you wouldn’t think they would. Jacques Lacan, the French Freud as he is sometimes called, is supposed to have said something to the effect that Catholicism is not amenable to psychoanalysis, an assessment that one of his disciples, Julia Kristeva, disagreed with. In Hitchcock’s hands, in Marnie, we see Marnie being pushed to perform restitution, a form of penance; she is brought face to face with her memories, a prelude to confession; and she is brought to contrition and punishment. The psychoanalytic background of Marnie’s story fits nicely with the sacrament of penance.
I suppose you could argue that Hitchcock is presenting an alternative to the sacrament, but I think that given the acts of restitution, and the need for public confession and possible punishment that we have left the purely psychoanalytic and entered the religious and sacramental realms.
A good movie that would have been even better had it been graced by Kim Novak or Eva Marie Saint.