Friday, 11 February 2011

The Birds - Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

This film centres around Melanie Daniels, who becomes fascinated by Mitch Brenner and travels to the island the family lives on to bring a pair of love birds for his young sister Cathy. Upon her arrival events seem strange and a reaction takes place with the birds that inhabit the island. The birds are a metaphor symbolised in their shrieking sounds and sharp pecking which relates to the Greek mythology of the Harpy, which described women as bird - like. "But even if Hitchcock or screenwriter Evan Hunter did not intend to provide a solid reason for the attacks, their work does present a subtext and pattern of dialogue and events that can be interpreted. I believe that a persuasive case can be made that the birds are the manifestation of the mother's rage at rivals for her son's affection." (Merde, 2009) This evidence suggests how the actions of the birds could be a metaphor to the mother's discomfort to any girl that becomes involved with Mitch because she wants to look after him. In the film the mother appears distant to Melanie because she is unsure whether to like or trust her as Melanie is a rival for her son's love and it is only at the end when Melanie is injured that she feels more comfortable as she has someone else to care for and her role as the protective mother is restored.

Figure 1, (2011), The Birds still of Melanie and Annie

Figure 2, (2011), The Birds still of Melanie and Mrs Bundy

The camera angles made the film more dynamic to gain fast pace action shots. There was close up shots to zoom in on the individual people that were being attacked especially during the crow chase scene, where the school was trying to escape. The best example is the scene where Melanie takes cover, the angle feels as if the viewer is trapped in this confined space with her and seeing the birds dive at the glass. There is also point of view as the glass cracks and the moment when the birds swoop towards her, this moment visually show the terror of becoming trapped with a swarm closing in. There is a rememrable scene of where the crows slowly gather round a climbing frame in the school playground which shows a clever use of fast cut between scenes. Melanie sits on a beach close by and as it cuts back to the climbing frame the flock of crows increases, depicting how time passes for their numbers to grow until the climbing frame and nearby fences and objects are completely covered.

Figure 3, (2011), The Birds still of phone booth scene

 Figure 4, (2011), The Birds still of Crow gathering

Swarm movies were particularly popular in the sixties to eighties era and they mainly focussed on survival, how a group of humans bond together in a struggle against a flock of birds or a swarm of bees or ants. The emotions of the characters are identified through the desperation conflict scenario and how they become closer. The scene towards the end of the film where the characters are trapped in the house felt like the characters banded together more as a family all cramped together in one room in an embrace. This is more noticeable in the mother as she becomes more relaxed with Melanie but more unsettled by the huge gather of the colonies of birds. Mitch takes on the protective male figure and tries to make the house safe by blocking off the windows and doors as well as keeping the family in one place. This implies the reason why Mitch's mother doesn't want her son to leave because he can take charge and protect the family because he takes up the role of father. "'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, 2011) This evidence recognises the uncomfortable situation between the characters of MelanieLydia and Annie, focusing on Lydia unwilling to trust any girl involved with Mitch as the overprotective mother but analysed further in Annie as the ex-girl friend who secretly still loves Mitch but has to except and welcome his new love interest. 

Figure 5, (2011), The Birds still of Annie Hayworth and red mail box

The story held together because an audience wouldn't expect birds to behave in this manner as if they were plotting and coordinating their attacks on humans. "It works as a shocker probably because it's shock scenes are so unexpected that it makes us think about birds in a way we never have before. It's also worth noting that The Birds used a synthesized score consisting entirely of bird sounds, not music. This helped create the eerie mood throughout." (Schwartz, 2007) This quote identifies how the piercing shrieks of the bird sounds make them appear more disturbing and recognised for their strange behaviour in the film, especially when not much notice for these sounds is taken in real life. The success of not including music within the soundtrack made the film appear more disturbing in scenes where a huge flock of birds were closing in around the house or a group of people because the viewer could take in the distressing calls and wing movement as they all take flight. There fore something that usually normal has become dark and given an eerie meaning because the depiction of the bird's behaviour in the film is unfamiliar to the audience. The end scene also showed this where there was a mass gathering of different varieties of bird, all waiting patiently as the trapped characters make their quiet escape. It was very abrupt because the story could have continued further with the mass flock attacking the car but their stillness also represents odd behaviour as if they are planning their next move.

Figure 6, (2011), The Birds still of end scene


Figure 1, (2011), The Birds still of Melanie and Annie, @, Accessed on: 1999

Figure 2, (2011), The Birds still of Melanie and Mrs Bundy, @, Accessed on: 2010

Figure 3, (2011), The Birds still of phone booth scene, @, Accessed on: 1996

Figure 4, (2011), The Birds still of Crow gathering, @, Accessed on: 2010

Figure 5, (2011), The Birds still of Annie Hayworth and red mail box, @, Accessed on: 2010

Figure 6, (2011), The Birds still of end scene, @, Accessed on: 2010


Cinema de Merde, (2009), The Birds, @, Accessed on: July 2005

Milne Tom (2011), Time Out London, @, Accessed on: 24th June 2006

Schwartz Dennis, (2007), Perhaps only a director of Hitchcock's caliber can make such a fowl story fly, @, Accessed on: 7th November 2007

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