Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Storytelling and Commission: The Birds - Review

It is not a surprise that Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ was based on an actual events from past, just like it happened with this director’s previous productions. Sometimes a fascinating story can inspire a novelist whose book might give a brilliant vision to a movie director.

The Birds was made in 1963 and represents the suspense/horror genre as well as the human versus nature type of story, although in the beginning the movie might confuse the viewer because ‘The build-up to the actual bird attacks was quite slow(…)Hitchcock paced the film nicely’(Aliventi, 2007), it was expected to strike with more dramatic and dynamic scenes in the beginning of the story. At first the movie pace suggests and introduces more of a romance genre than horror, as the main heroine Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) sets off for her love adventure, chasing the man named Mitch (Rod Taylor), who she barely knows. One might state that there’s no more room for terrifying birds’ attacks, that there’s nothing to be expected apart from drama and love tears, but Aliventi stated it clearly in the quotation. The built-up is slow and that might be the key for understanding the terror and dread of The Birds. The aggressive and unexpected attacks haunt the town and citizens. People are confused and scared, so is the audience of the movie. There are no reasons for these gentle animals to go insane, no natural cataclysm; just the unlooked-for events that create the unique feel of the production giving it its own, timeless features recognizable throughout many years.

However, the meaning of Hitchcock’s production might be deeper than the usual viewer is expecting. Maybe the terms of philosophy and hidden messages could reveal the true meaning of the birds’ attacks. Perhaps the birds themselves are just a depiction of something more meaningful and they represent ‘(…) the explosive outburst of maternal superego trying to prevent a sexual relationship between Mitch and Melanie.; (Simmons, 2010). The image of a woman, especially the main heroine, changes throughout the whole movie; in the beginning she’s a confident and independent person, but when the attacks start, she changes into defenseless scared woman who seeks safety in her lover’s arms. It is especially clear during the attack at Mitchel’s house, when he is barricading windows and doors, while his mother, sister and Melanie are paralyzed with fear, only able to cringe and wait for the birds to stop. As Schwartz states in his quotation:

‘Perhaps the safest guess is to take it on Freudian terms, that it's simply a tale of three needy women (all can be viewed as birds) who all need a man to protect them from their fears and give them affection.’ (Schwartz, 2007).

In such consideration the lack of dynamic and constant attacks can be easily understood. This would also explain why the birds were not attacking in the final scene; Mitchel’s overprotective mother found peace, accepted her sons choice. Melanie found her love and someone who’s changed her inner-self. Everyone learn the value of true feelings.
Although The Birds is a production rimmed with fame and unbreakable belief in Hitchcock’s successful approach to horror genre, there are voices of doubt and quite strong reasons for people to say that, unfortunately, The Birds might be also considered as one of Hitchcock’s less successful movies. Pellegrino sums up his review with words: ‘(…) it is Hitchcock we stay, but take away the birds and there is no film left’ (Pellegrino, 2011).
The actors are not convincing enough, their actions are unnatural and decisions left unexplained. There are many scenes which take more time that they actually need, which makes the audience feel rather bored, instead of terrified and consumed by tension.

Even though for contemporary viewer Hitchcock’s The Birds might feel like a piece of old-fashioned cinema, which bores with its long scenes and unpolished script, this is a legacy left by the master of suspense which opened the eyes and minds of many future movie directors.

*Aliventi, Patti (2007) online source:
*Simmons, Jonathan (2010) online source:
*Schwartz, Dennis (2007) online source:
*Pellegrino, Joseph (2011) online source:
2. Stills:
* Poster:

1 comment:

  1. "...which bores with its long scenes and unpolished script..." oh dear :(