Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Birds (1963)

Fig. 1
Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds is a suspense horror that will never let you see birds in the same way again! From what begins as a romance story soon turns sinister in true Hitchcock style, building suspense by revealing the information to the audience. Considered visionary at the time, Hitchcock creates the Avatar of his day, with multiple bird attacks and quite graphic gore. The film follows Melanie's journey into a small county in California, Bodega Bay, in order to win over Mitch. The soon happy romance plot line soon fizzles out to be something under-lyingly sinister. The town soon becomes the victim to widespread and violent bird attacks. With graphic close ups of gouged out eyes and Suspira bright red blood, Hitchcock definitely provokes a squeamish response.   

Fig. 2
With lots of motivated shots, Hitchcock creates suspense and tension by revealing the information to the audience. For instance the slow pace scene in which we see Melanie sitting on a bench smoking a cigarette, where in the background crows begin to gather in there hundreds. The fact the character is oblivious builds the atmosphere amongst the audience. Kim Newman states, 'A rare foray into the outright fantastic, this offers no explanation for the crisis and thus confronts its prosaic characters with the blindly irrational. Great Creepy Moment: the birds slowly gathering on a climbing frame outside the school as Tippi has a fag while the children sing. Best Downright Exciting Moment: the house under attack and Tippi's unwise venture into the attic . . . Genuinely disturbing thriller classic from the master of suspense.' (Newman 2007) Newman states the preferable scenes of the movie and suggests the fact there appears to be no reason for the abrupt and sudden attacks is fantastically tactical. The unresolved ending also adds to the uncanny atmosphere.

The idea of nature fighting back is expressed within the film, with possible indications of global warming and an even stronger emphasise on the female species relating to Harpys and Sirens. That women are unpredictable and 'sharp natured'. Subtle hints include the finger nails and red lips, relates to beaks and claws. Variety observes, 'The premise is fascinating. The idea of billions of bird-brains refusing to eat crow any longer and adopting the hunt-and-peck system, with homo sapiens as their ornithological target, is fraught with potential. Cinematically, Hitchcock & Co have done a masterful job of meeting this formidable challenge. But dramatically, The Birds is little more than a shocker-for shock's-sake.' (Variety 2007) Variety applauds Hitchcock's triumph cinematically and also the success of the unexplained yet somewhat believable plot line.

Fig. 3
The underlying 'catty-ness' between the female characters is clear through those who crave affection for Mitch; his mother, ex-lover and current romance. The tension between them can be cut with a knife; the sniping, sharp remarks between Melanie and Annie, as well as the 'disproving, judgemental mother routine'.
Tom Milne suggests, 'Full of subterranean hints as to the ways in which people cage each other, it's fierce and Freudian as well as great cinematic fun, with ample fodder for the amateur psychologist following up on Hitch's tortuous involvement with his leading ladies.' (Milne 2006) Milne observes the underlying context Hitchcock subtly depicts within the film, through the link between red figure nails and the birds claws. Another key ingredient Milne has picked up upon is the way in which Hitchcock portrays his female protagonists.

List of illustrations

Figure 1. Hitchcock, Alfred (1963) The Birds Movie Poster. At: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c0/The_Birds_original_poster.jpg (Accessed on:21/2/12)

Figure 2. Hitchcock, Alfred (1963) Mitch (Rod Taylor) and Melanie (Tippi Hedren). At:  http://img5.imagebanana.com/img/1k0vthhc/The.Birds.1963_720p.HDTV.x264_aac.en.PNG  (Accessed on:21/2/12)

Figure 3. Hitchcock, Alfred (1963) Attack on the school children. At:  http://vintage45.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/hitchthebirds.jpg  (Accessed on:21/2/12)


Empire Kim Newman (2007) The Birds. At: http://www.empireonline.com/reviews/review.asp?FID=16934 (Accessed on:21/2/12)

Variety (2007) The Birds. At: http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117789283?refcatid=31 (Accessed on:21/2/12)

Tom Milne (2006) The Birds (1963). At: http://www.timeout.com/film/reviews/67850/the_birds.html (Accessed on:21/2/12)

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