The Birds (1963)

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The Birds (1963)

Post  BoG on Sat Apr 03, 2010 1:02 pm



For me, Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds represents one of the more enticing efforts to realize a film as if it were an unfolding well-written novel - leisurely in the first half, but also literate, elegant and even (horror of horrors) subtle in places. Much of this quality is evident in the early scenes - the ones in San Francisco where we're introduced to the two main characters (played by Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren), Melanie Daniels' (Hedren) drive towards Bodega Bay and when she becomes acquainted with the new locale. Those touches  with the two little lovebirds, as they sway inside their cage with the turns of Melanie's automobile - you just don't see stuff like this in other films, not these days and not even back then. Of course, if this is a novel-as-film, it's still a horror novel - with a touch of sci-fi. When the birds attack, the tone becomes a bit more visceral.
Watching this film again, I noted that the style now reminds me of Stanley Kubrick's (as in Barry Lyndon and The Shining), but, as I mentioned, Hitchcock's elegance & subtlety is in a class by itself. After I watched this, I had a hankering to see his other films, such as Frenzy (1972); his style is addictive to a viewer. By all rights, we should have no sense of dread in a film about birds. There is something eerie about a small village on the bay, however - could it be the impression forwarded by the main female character, that cool blonde with her supposedly stern, unshakable demeanor? I don't know if this was intentional by Hitchcock or accidental, but when this strong-willed woman breaks, it's all the more unsettling. And, for me, as a kid, the creepy scene of Jessica Tandy finding the dead man with his eyes gone was truly the stuff of nightmares.
And as to the question of why all this is happening (no explanations offered in the film): a theory revolving around a strictly psychological horror story would propose that much or all of the events are simply Melanie's delusions, perhaps even just a nightmare she is having (the film-as-a-dream thesis). Her character is wound a little tight, isn't she? If we wanted to add a slight sci-fi angle, then Melanie is projecting harmful psychic energy into the air around her; the birds are reacting to this negative energy (Melanie's 'mind powers' have recently been awoken due to her continual failure in admitting things to herself about her absent mother).
I have the advantage of just seeing this film again. I noted that all the appearances of the birds in 'attack mode' always depend on the presence of Melanie. Hitchcock himself suggests this connection when a panicky woman screams at Melanie, opining that Melanie may be the cause of all this and calling her "evil!". Our first reaction to this scene is - 'OK, the panic-stricken woman is just looking for a weird reason and Hitchcock is playing with us;' but it does make some sense. All events seem to revolve around Melanie. As suggested by radio reports, this is not a worldwide or nationwide phenomenon; it just affects this village and a couple of nearby towns, like Santa Rosa.
Finally, if we opt for the all-out science fiction angle, then a later example of such a phenomenon is the disaster film The Core (2003). This theory involves the magnetic field of the Earth deteriorating (in reality, the field changes or reverses; I think this supposedly happens every 50,000 years or so). There's even a scene involving birds in this latter film and a sly reference to Hitchcock's film. It even fits the plot of the The Birds, because only certain areas and wildlife are affected in the early stages of this phenomenon. You be the judge. BoG's Score: 8.5 out of 10
Bird Trivia: there were a couple of big films made recently about the behind-the-scenes and making of this film - an HBO TV Film called The Girl (2012), the girl of the title being Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller), with Toby Jones in the role of Alfred Hitchcock, and the film Hitchcock (2012), in which the director was portrayed by Anthony Hopkins; see below for rare behind-the-scenes photos:

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Birds Behind-the-Scenes

Post  BoG on Wed Nov 05, 2014 6:35 pm




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