Monday, 16 February 2015

Film Review - The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963)

Fig 1. The Birds Poster

'The Birds' is a surprisingly deep film considering the plotline consists of nothing more than a slowly escalating rate of bird attacks. All of which happen in the small peaceful town Bodega Bay. While its plot is deceivingly simple, what lurks behind it is a focus on the relationships between Mitch, his mother Lydia and the protagonist Melanie. Lydia is quite openly the over-protective mother and conversations that happen between her and Melanie are subtly awkward. Lydia makes it very clear throughout that she dislikes her.

Xan Brooks states in his review ''Alternatively, they might be viewed as an eruption of rage. The film's first act, after all, is an uncomfortable buildup of tension (both sexual and social), an ongoing joust of loaded glances and teasing evasions.'' (Brooks, 2012). It could certainly be said that the build-up of tension in the first act not only helps to build up the story, but also the overall mood. It is in many ways, one of rage and violence. Most notably in any of the bird attack scenes and also in some of the heated arguments seen between characters in the film. Most of the interactions between Melanie and Lydia are built on a thick layer of distrust, and these create some of the most tense moments in the film when you exclude the bird scenes. 

In his review of The Birds, Alastair Sooke states ''The bird-attack sequences are tremendously complex (the movie contains more than 370 trick shots), and the absence of a score renders the horror more immediate: Hitch's long-time composer Bernard Herrmann fashioned an eerie soundtrack from caws, strident screeches and rustling wings.'' (Sooke, 2015). One of the biggest visual strengths in this film are its birds. The fast-paced sequences where gulls and crows peck, claw and scratch at unsuspecting townsfolk are arguably some of the most terrifying and visually stunning pieces of film in any Hitchcock film (See Fig 2). Birds should not be scary, they are pets and pests. However, with fast-paced clips and brilliantly chilling soundtracks, Hitchcock manages to pull birds out of the beautiful and innocent and into the nightmarish and malicious.

Fig 2. Bird Attack.

Bosley Crowther states in his review in The New York Times ''Whether Mr. Hitchcock intended this picture of how a plague of birds almost ruins a peaceful community to be symbolic of how the world might Le destroyed (or perilously menaced) by a sudden disorder of future's machinery is not apparent in the picture. Nor is it made readily clear whether he meant the birds to represent the classical Furies that were supposed to pursue the wicked on this earth.'' (Crowther, 1963). The back-story in the film is very ominous, there is no clear reason given to the viewer why the bird attacks are happening. In terms of story, nothing is solid, there are no reasons on the surface for many of the events in the film, only metaphors and theories buried deep within the surface of dialogue, setting and character. The ending to the film is fitting for the already confusing plot-line, the main characters who were barricaded in their home get in a car and drive down the road, all the while being watched closely by the thousands of birds perched on and around the house (See Fig 3). Overall, the film is a true thriller and at least to the casual viewer, not much more.

Fig 3. The Birds Ending.

Illustration List

Hitchcock, A (1963) Figure 1. The birds Poster. (Accessed on 03/02/15)

Hitchcock, A (1963) Figure 2. Bird Attack. (Accessed on 16/02/15)

Hitchcock, A (1963) Figure 3. The Birds Ending. (Accessed on 16/02/15)


Brooks, X (2012) (Accessed on 16/02/15)

Crowther, B (1963) (ACCessed on 16/02/15)

Sooke, A (2015) (Accessed on 16/02/15)

1 comment:

  1. 'Hitchcock manages to pull birds out of the beautiful and innocent and into the nightmarish and malicious.' - a very pleasing review Jack :)