Friday, 2 March 2012

The Birds (1963) review


Film poster
The Birds is a 1963 suspense horror film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and stars Rod Taylor, Tippi Hendren, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette and Veronica Cartwright. Based loosely on the 1952 story “The Birds” by Daphne du Maurier, the film revolves around a town in Bodega Bay, California where sudden unexpected bird attacks become widespread for unknown reasons.

The film starts with Melanie Daniels as she travels to Bodega Bay to visit the lawyer, Mitch Brenner with two lovebirds as a gift for him. However on the way home, Melanie gets bird attacked by a seagull. As the story continues more birds appear however, the suspense grows as the birds sit quietly and patiently on buildings, roofs or most famously, on some playground sets. The birds appear to be “listening” and waiting to attack their victims as the birds play with the victim’s fear. However there is not proper explanation as to why the birds specifically attack an innocent town, only Hitchcock makes the audience to create speculations. As described by Kim Newman, critic for Empireonline says, “A rare foray into the outright fantastic, this offers no explanation for the crisis and thus confronts its prosaic characters with the blindly irrational.” (Newman, 2008)
The famous birds on a frame
With the bird attacks recurring quite frequently, the film continues with Melanie as she beings to fall in love Mitch. However, Mitch’s mother Lydia is very clingy to her eldest son. It is also noted that there is some conflict between the mother and Melanie  as to who “claims” Mitch. It is noticeable that the mother has a grudge on Melanie because of Mitch’s feelings for her and the attention he gives her. Though strangely in the ending sequence of the film, as Melanie tries to keep her sanity and conscious stable, the mother gives a look of “I’ve got you now” as if to say, you’re in my power which coincidentally, the bird attacks begins to ease off after attacking Melanie. The bird in the film seems to appear to be battling for the next civilization against human beings. With the ending, it is unclear whether Melanie survived from her injuries or mentally stable again leaving the audience to decide as described by the Variety Staff from Variety Magazine, “Where the scenario and picture slip is in the sphere of the human element. An unnecessary elaborate romantic plot has been cooked up and then left suspended.”(Variety Staff, 1962)
The birds watching down on their prey
With the unclear plotline to how the characters end up in the ending, the audience are left with the characters rushing through the birds to the nearest hospital in San Francisco even though it is hinted that the birds have invaded the Godlen Gate bridge as well. This could possibly mean that the characters that Melanie relates or communicates to becomes “cursed” or “watched” on by the birds as described by Emanuel Levy from emanuellevy.com. He states that “ “It looks clear up ahead,” is Mitch’s last sentence in the film, indicating hopefulness for the future. The last shot shows the car moving fast into the magnificent sunrise over the crest of the hills, while the birds are sitting and waiting. The ending reaffirms the Brenners’ marginal status: leaving town, they become complete outsiders–literally” (levy, 1963)

List of Illustrations:

Vince, L (1963) Film Poster (online):
http://qwipster.net/birds.htm (accessed on 27/02/2012)

Stille, A (2012) The famous birds on a frame (online):

Pein, D.V. ( 2012) The birds watching down on their prey (online):

Bibliography:

Newman, K (2008) The Birds (online):

Variety Staff (1962) The Birds (online):

Levy, E (1963) Hitchcock’s Last Masterpiece, Part Two of Two (online):

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