Film Review: Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" (1963)

Figure 1. The Birds Movie Poster

Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” (1963) presents it’s audience with the consistent droning of frantically flapping wings and the cries of both birds and humans. Such a spectacle may have started off light-hearted, but as the film progresses, it has a series of rather drastic mood swings.

Contrary to belief, some individuals would say that this film is used as a representation to many things such as the behaviour of women, the perils of futuristic machinery and how it may come to destroy us, or it could just be about rather malicious birds. Partaking on the birds representing women idea, it is notable that the overall film is mostly based around the emotions of women. Symbolism of the birds behaviours portray how catty women can be, with possibly the violent outbreaks relating to woman’s stereotypical catty attitude. As Xan Brooks speculates in a review, “When teasing out the meaning of The Birds, many critics take their lead from the hysterical woman who links the attacks to Daniels' arrival ("I think you're the cause of all of this"). This implies that the birds are a manifestation of sex, some galvanic hormonal storm that whisks sleepy Bodega Bay into a great communal lather.” (Brooks, X. 2012)

Figure 2. Melanie Daniels and Mitch Brenner

But what truly adds to the terror of each bird sequence in the film is how they are panned out. For example, Alastair Sooke observes, “The bird-attack sequences are tremendously complex (the movie contains more than 370 trick shots), and the absence of a score renders the horror more immediate: Hitch's long-time composer Bernard Herrmann fashioned an eerie soundtrack from caws, strident screeches and rustling wings.” (Sooke, A. 2015). The melodramatic acting from the cast gives the audience a sense of terror with a hint of frustration, leaving them on the edge of their seats as they internally yell at the cast to ‘get out of there’. It is an intense atmosphere for the most part, due to the birds, but also due to character interactions and relationships.

Melanie Daniels and Annie Hayworth

Tippy Hedren played our main heroine of the story, who comes across as somewhat promiscuous and adventurous, but that facade falls flat as she is first hit by a gull whilst on a boat, her mask of composure slowly crumbling. Bosley Crowther takes note on the emotions linked into the film, “…a young woman who is made out to be the vaguely resentful ex-sweetheart of the son is killed by the birds in one of their onsets before they zero in on the mother's house.” (Crowther, B. 1963) The point coming across here is then relating us back to the first argument that the attacking birds are symbolic of what was thought to be most women’s attitudes towards each other. The jealous and overbearing mother, and the resentful ex-girlfriend, in particular, are experiencing an unease when confronted with the main heroine of the story, and are in a sense, feeling threatened by her sophisticated and model like demeanour. These emotions have successfully been conveyed by Hitchcock through the manifestation of birds that swarm Bodega Bay.

Figure 4. Birds Attack the School

It doesn’t go unnoticed that Hitchcock’s aspirations for his work is to create suspense, mystery, and to portray intellect in an artistic way. The unspeakable horrors of how malicious these feathered creatures have acted has been presented to the audience through tension, a noticeable lack of musical soundtrack throughout the attack scenes, and the incredible directing of Alfred Hitchcock.

Bibliography:

Brooks, X. (2012) ‘My Favourite Hitchcock: The Birds’ (31.07.12) In: http://www.theguardian.com/ (2012) [Online] At: http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2012/jul/31/my-favourite-hitchcock-the-birds (Accessed on 21.03.15)

Crowther, B. (1963) ‘MOVIE REVIEW - The Birds (1963)
Screen: 'The Birds':Hitchcock's Feathered Fiends Are Chilling’ (01.04.63) In: http://www.nytimes.com/ (1963) [Online] At: http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9D05E7D9143CEF3BBC4953DFB2668388679EDE (Accessed on 21.03.15)


Sooke, A. (2015) ‘The Birds, review: ‘disturbing’’ (09.01.15) In: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/ (2015) [Online] At: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/11334674/The-Birds-review-disturbing.html (Accessed on 21.03.15)

Illustrations:

Figure 1. 'The Birds Movie Poster' (1963) [Poster] At: http://the.hitchcock.zone/files/gallery/org/4714.jpg (Accessed on 21.03.15)

Figure 2. 'Melanie Daniels and Mitch Brenner' (1963) [Movie Still] At: http://derekwinnert.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/7.png (Accessed on 21.03.15)

Figure 3. 'Melanie Daniels and Annie Hayworth' (1963) [Movie Still] At: http://the-dandy-life.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/The-Birds-Fashion.png (Accessed on 21.03.15)

Figure 4, 'Birds Attack the School' (1963) [Movie Still] At: http://bavatuesdays.com/wp-content/images/thebirds3.jpg (Accessed on 21.03.15)

Comments

  1. Good to see you plugging gaps, Chels - but much more than this, enriching your critical voice, your filmic experience and your confidences in terms of expressing your ideas through writing :)

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