Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" -- A Brief Analysis

                                       Hitchcock movies were a series of situations linked together by plot. They were not character driven. This meant that Hitchcock relied on major stars to carry the emotion of the story. From the early 1960s, Hitch was without Cary Grant and James Stewart, and most of the famous actors emerged from the Method School who wanted the character's development to be the central focus. In addition, during that time, Hitch has problems with his performers. He would develop a project around a big star, then the star would drop out for one reason or another. So, the 1963 "Birds" is one of the best films of the latter part of Hitchcock career. Another high point in this later period was "Frenzy", filmed in his native London. 

                                    Garden birds turning against mankind -- even though the plot seems banal, it has become terrifying in the hands of Hitchcock. Tippi Hedren played the blonde heroine of "The Birds." The story starts with the lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), who meets a rich girl Melanie Daniels (Tippi) in a pet shop and treats her like a shop assistant. He is playing a joke on her since he once tried to persuade her in court for a practical joke that went wrong. They argue, and Melanie tries to get her own back by presenting Mitch's little sister, Cathy, with the two love birds Mitch couldn't find in the pet shop. 

                                    She has travel from San Francisco to Bodega Bay. After secretly delivering the present, Melanie is attacked by a seagull. As Melanie is introduced into Mitch's family (Mitch's mother, Lydia, is afraid Mitch will leave her -- like when her husband died) and schoolteacher Annie Hayworth (she loves Mitch, they once had a relationship, she moved to Bodega Bay to be near him), the different species of birds escalate their attack: gulls attack Cathy's outdoor birthday party; sparrows fill down the house by coming down the chimney; Lydia finds a dead farmer with his eyes gouged out; crows attack the school children; gulls attack the town, which goes up in flames. 

                                 They all board themselves up in the house, only to have the birds attack but not get in. During the night, Melanie investigates a sound, and is trapped in the loft, repeated pecked by an onslaught of birds. Dragged out by Mitch, she is in shock. Mitch goes outside and all the buildings and land are covered with birds. They tiptoe out, and slowly make their way by car to some uncertain future. 

                               The excellent visual ideas of Hitchcock are abundant in this movie too: Broken Crockery -- when the sparrows attack, they break all the crockery in the house, which upsets Lydia. When Lydia visits the farmer to talk about chicken grain, she known something is wrong because she sees broken cups; One Too Many -- when Melanie sits outside the school, we see the crows slowly massing on the climbing frame behind her. She is agitated, smoking. Then she sees a crow, follows its flight and then it lands on the climbing frame where there are hundreds of crows; Glass -- The attacks are seen though the restaurant window, a telephone booth and a car window, but then the birds begin smashing through the glass as well; God Shot -- when the town goes up in flames and there is much action, Hitchcock cuts to a high shot of the whole town, has one bird swoop and hover close to us, and then another, and another, until the screen is filled with birds. 



                                There is no music in the film, only natural and unnatural sounds. The sound of the birds massing is frightening than any kind of soundtrack. The cage and glass serves as the tow important metaphors throughout the film. The cage represents the careless lifestyle and complacency of Melanie, which has pushed her into an insular cage. The glass represents the frangibility of stability and the precariousness of human life.

                                The inevitable cameo of Hitchcock occurs when Hitchcock is leaving the pet shop with two Scottie dogs. As in "Psycho", Hitchcock, once again, succeeded in implicating his audience to such an extent that the anticlimactic, much-criticized ending of the film finds the audience more blood-thirsty than the birds. Hitchcock's underestimated and misappreciated film, "The Birds" is a triumph of special effects as well as the wellspring of what we now call as the gross-out horror. 

The Birds -- IMDb

25 Things Tou Didn't Know About Hitchcock's "Birds" 


Vinita Kherdekar said...

I have seen this movie, it scared the bejesus out of me...a typical Hitchcock movie...

Farida Rizwan said...

Thanks for this wonderful review. I will have to see this movie..

Haricharan Pudipeddi said...

Definitely one of the best films of Hitchcock. It has layers of hidden metaphors which works wonderfully in the film. Great review. I may have revisit soon :)

Arun said...

@Vinita Kherdekar, Thanks for the comment. Yeah, scary without being gory.

@Farida Rizwan, Thanks for the comment. Give your viewpoint on the movie, once you have watched it.

@Haricharan, Thank you. First time, I watched, it simply looked like a horror film. But, after revisiting the film again and again, I found the visual ideas by Hitchcock, very enthralling.