A hundred years ago I sat down on a Saturday night to watch the movie Marnie on network television. Understand this was the dawning of the age of VCRs. No Blockbuster. No Hollywood Video. No TiVo. No Netflix.
I'd never seen the movie before. I was in the basement of my parents' house watching on a portable black and white TV with adjustable rabbit ears. There were COMMERCIALS! I was in college dating the man I would ultimately marry. The phone rang. There was no caller ID. I don't think we even had an answering machine.
It was my future husband. I explained that I was watching a movie and I'd call him back as soon as it was over. I really wanted to see how the film ended. Hitchcock, you know? You can't just walk away in the middle of it.
Thus began a lengthy discussion about my lack of love for him. Was he not more important than some old movie? Didn't I want to know how his shift at work had gone? Personal relationships are the bedrock of society. Television was destroying the world.
I argued. I cried. I swore my undying love. I begged, for the love of all that is holy, let me see what happens to Tippi Hedren!
By the time I disengaged from this ridiculous conversation, the movie was over.
Fast forward to yesterday. I checked out a copy of Marnie from the library, and after my counseling session I sat down with my lunch to finally watch it all the way through. Oh my gosh! There's a reason I needed to see this movie to its conclusion. In many ways, the movie was trying to tell me my own story.
Let me tell you a little about me. I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I didn't know that at the time. I had repressed most of the experiences, and the one I did remember I couldn't label as abuse. My boyfriend was quirky, but he was a lot better than where I'd been, so I didn't hang up on him or tell him to take a flying leap. I just rode it out the best way I knew how. Twisting and turning emotionally trying to figure out how this had escalated from watching a movie to the depth of my devotion to him.
"Mark marries Marnie although she is a habitual thief and has serious psychological problems, and tries to help her confront and resolve them." That's how iMDb summarizes the plot. Barely scrapes the top layer.
Marnie is suffering from repressed memories, undiagnosed PTSD, flashbacks, and molestation among other things. She is frigid and can't bear to be touched by a man. She spouts religious rhetoric and acts out impulsively to deal with her unexplained issues. Mark is a cold fish who is a widower with an interest in zoological behavior. He suspects Marnie is up to something, but rather than confront her he lets the whole thing play out before he blackmails her into his loving (?) arms. And it just grows from there.
It's a masterpiece of a film, and it's no wonder it wasn't well received in 1964. A psychologically taut piece that was far ahead of its time. Nobody knew about PTSD and dissociation. Mark was trying to be a 1960s man and handle his woman. A firm hand, that's what she needed. Both Mark and Marnie are flawed characters aching for redemption.
I didn't have Marnie's coping mechanisms, and my future husband didn't have Mark's exact issues, but we had our own weird methods that were mirrored in the movie. My husband pushed me into therapy after years and years of digging at my psyche. He pushed and pushed and pushed until I finally broke down and went. And then he wanted a play by play of every session. That was nearly 15 years ago. In a couple of weeks, we will celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. I wonder if Mark and Marnie lasted that long?
By the time I finished the movie, I had a better understanding of what that argument had really been about all those years ago. I also had a pounding headache, upset stomach, and massive anxiety. After some medicine and relaxation, I realized how glad I was that I'd watched the movie all the way to the end this time.
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