Not quite a "woman's picture," not quite noir, but something quite interesting:
Joan Fontaine, costumes, Merrie Olde, romance - why, surely it's a tale of a tender-hearted woman torn between a brutish husband and a wonderful suitor, right? Well. From the start there's something off about it all; she goes to consult a fortune teller, who warns her of dire days ahead. Yes, it's the crone the Universal monster movies, Mrs Screechy Comic Relief. But not here. Imagine this on the big screen, if you will. (Flash vid; mouse over for controls if not immediately obvious.)
The scenes's compositions are strange and forboding, as fits the scene, and as the movie rolls on you realize that almost everything looks odd. Almost dreamlike. Creamy, unreal. Look at the grey-suited man in the middle:
The mansion where Ivy goes to a party:
It's literally a black and white world, right down to the interiors.
There's not a hint of color anywhere. Color doesn't exist.
Ivy is not a good girl. Ivy is very bad. She has a husband who adores her, a lover who is consumed to the point of MADNESS, I TELL YOU by his passion, and as if that's not enough on her plate, she meets a rich old guy and decides she needs to have him, so she can be comfortable and move up in society. Ah, but how to get rid of the hubby and the lover? Well, her lover happens to be a doctor. As she sits alone in his room, waiting for him, she spies it: the carefully illuminated plot device.
Of course! Poison the husband, blame it on the lover. This leads to a scene that sums up the gorgeous artifice of the movie with an effect that's complete almost before you notice what's happening. (Flash vid; mouse over for controls if not immediately obvious.)
Well, we know where this is leading. A trial. Her view as she enters the court gives you the feleling of claustrophobia nad doom:
But she's not on trial. Boyfriend's on trial, just as we expected.
Won't spoil the ending, but the opening and closing credits say it all. The opening, if you'll recall: