Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Unit 4: Story Telling - Review - Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds



Figure 1. The Birds Poster Art

“The birds” is a film that is Iconic for its stylised bird montages. While one does not doubt that this film has a place as the “what if” of natural disaster, it is quite easy to misinterpret some of the cutting methods. The plot of the film also feels a little dry which could have began later than it did, if it was not for Hitchcock’s need to make the opening scene a bird shop.

•Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
•Written by: Daphne Du Maurier & Evan Hunter
•Cast: Rod Taylor as Mitch Brenner, Tippi Hedren as Melanie Daniels, Jessica Tandy as Lydia Brenner, Suzanne Pleshette as Annie Hayworth, Veronica Cartwright as Cathy Brenner & Ethel Griffies as Mrs. Bundy
•Genre: Horror, Mystery, Suspense & Classics
•Duration: 119 Minutes (aprox)




Figure 2. "A little birdie told me”

A young and foxy platinum blond Melanie Daniels is visiting a friend’s pet shop when she bumps into acquaintance Mitch who states that he is there for love birds. In a rather unbelievable twist Melanie decides to jot down his licence plate and stalk Mitch to his country side villa near the sea. What Melanie does not know is that a bird attack is about to happen for reasons unknown and is seemingly instigated by her arrival in town. Staying for a day turns into a weekend when the bird attacks require the boarding of windows. Neatly summarised the bird’s could peak interest but much is to be desired from the film’s opening which one could feel is a little forced. Variety Staff observes:
“Aside from the birds, the film belongs to Hedren, who makes an auspicious screen bow. She virtually has to carry the picture alone for the first 45-minute stretch, prior to the advent of the first wave of organized attackers from the sky.” (Variety Staff: 1962)
One would have to agree that “The Birds” takes a long time to get going, the opening of the film feels as though it brings nothing to the table other then Hitchcock’s need to tie the term “bird” into his opening scene. One could admire the cast’s chemistry which is rich & inspires curiosity particularly from Mitch Brenner (played by Rod Taylor) but nothing else really happens. One even questions why after a chance meeting a rich girl would travel such a great distance just to belittle someone else. One can appreciate the slight of comedy but one cannot help shake the feeling that the film would have best been started in the riverside town with a vivacious Melanie arriving into town to deliver love birds.



Figure 3. "A gull hit her”

One can only express true admiration when one considers the visuals at work in the birds, which each shot feeling very much like it is a flurry with flapping wings. The sound design plays to its strengths and does so well that one believes a bird is in the room with them. One particular moment of note is when Melanie is pecked near to the death by the flying beasts in absolute silence which is daunting in itself. The phone box is another scene of note when Melanie’s putrid red nails expel as if they were a sign of the birds aggression. In this respect one could draw the conclusion that the birds has inspired these avian predators in past and present media, one of note is most certainly the resident evil series. Ken Hanke observes:
“I’m not personally as jazzed about the fairly late in the day The Birds (1963) as I’m supposed to be, but I recognize the film’s importance—and its technical accomplishment. (I perhaps appreciate the latter even more after being subjected to the zombie crows in Resident Evil: Extinction this week.)”. (Hanke: 2007)
In truth Resident Evil had adopted avian predators dating back to the early Sega Saturn games in which undead birds would lay in wait for the game avatar to appear to peck them to death. Having seen the birds it is quite remarkable that the idea for the most part originated with this film. One cannot help but feel inspired to know the journey in which this venture has taken. The birds may have dated but one cannot take what Hitchcock achieved with this outing, a truly original idea that would transcend for generations & may do so for more & more.



Figure 4. “It’s the end of the world”

If truth be told the film does set itself up as that of a natural disaster, especially when one considers the rather daunting petrol station explosion which runs very much like chemical spill or overturned bus. Freud’s Uncanny feels as though that has a part to play also, particularly with the abandoned streets or rooms (which are commonly full and uncannily empty). Still by the time the credits roll most are still wondering what caused the breakdown of nature which is completely implausible at this point, one can even commend Hitchcock for any explanation would feel as though it was the wrong explanation. John Murray observes:
"The fact that it is never revealed to the audience why normally peaceful birds suddenly start attacking humans is a technique that Hitchcock used frequently in his movies. It is called a MacGuffin (or McGuffin), which Hitchcock defines as "The plot device, of little intrinsic interest, such as lost or stolen papers, that triggers the action.” (Murray: 2011)
The Birds is left to the viewers speculation which one would have to say is probably where it is best left. To force an answer would more than likely de-merit the technical achievement of the birds, with that being said one could assume the suspicion surrounding Melanie. In narratives such as this, an atrocity happens to one before everyone else, Zombies are a classic example of this. This as such could inspire an uprising of mob mentality much like Frankenstein’s monster. One could even attribute the boarding up of the house to the former which is commonly done in Zombie films and was done by the Monster of Frankenstein. Still in the case of Zombies one is rarely made aware of the origin but the impending crisis, where as Frankenstein’s monster was seen from beginning to end.

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List of Illustrations

Figure 1. The Birds Poster Art. (com) [Online image]. At: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_k4__zh4GdZA/TTIEIVv6DeI/AAAAAAAAB8Y/bH_68wI3Cf0/s1600/The+Birds+Poster.jpg (Accessed on: 26/02/12)

Figure 2. A little birdie told me. (com) [Online image]. At: http://everybookandcranny.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/birds2.jpg (Accessed on: 26/02/12)

Figure 3. A gull hit her. (com) [Online image]. At: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-yyaExMC6lME/TzhiNyDVG9I/AAAAAAAAAXI/G260AKjQCY8/s1600/Original-The-Birds-alfred-hitchcock-1622941-653-353.jpg (Accessed on: 26/02/12)

Figure 4. It’s the end of the world. (com) [Online image]. At:
http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Lq91eXqAS-o/TwfjFBgTG9I/AAAAAAAAD3M/LX-h0Q529zY/s1600/The+Birds+6.jpg (Accessed on: 26/02/12)

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Bibliography

Variety Staff. (1962) The Birds Review At:
http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117789283?refcatid=31 (Accessed on: 26/02/12)

Ken, Hanke. (2007) The Birds Review At:
http://www.mountainx.com/movies/review/birds (Accessed on: 26/02/12)

Murray, John. (2011) The Birds FAQ. At: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056869/faq
(Accessed on: 26/02/12)

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