‘The Birds’

Dir. Alfred Hitchcock,

Film Review

Storytelling & Commission

The Birds
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

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‘The Birds’ is another of Hitchcock’s suspense filled wonders. Directed in 1963, ‘The Birds’ depicts the story of a series of sudden, unexplained bird attacks within the small town of Bodega Bay. The film is introduced in a way which may almost cause confusion amongst audiences, having an opening which almost immediately feels as if it belongs to the romantic-comedy genre; something which is completely off radar in regards to Hitchcock’s renowned filmmaking techniques. However, it isn’t until later that ‘The Birds’ reveals its true tension filled nature, releasing the suspense and horror in which Hitchcock develops so effectively. ‘The Birds’ was an ambitious film for its time due to its demand for the high volume of special effects; however the prodigious effort is arguably what had drawn Hitchcock to its production. Film critic Hanke argues that ‘The Birds’; “Feels like it was made by a brilliant filmmaker who simply felt challenged by the enormity of the task.” (Hanke, 2007) In agreement with Hanke, Hitchcock’s production feels centred around the success of the huge accomplishment he had achieved while developing this film, with the exciting special effects and his inventive, revolutionary filmmaking techniques. The foundations that the original story Daphne du Maurier had written presented Hitchcock with a loose base to build around, developing his own tension-filled thrill ride outside the boundaries of the novel elaborating on the original plot as well creating new and expanding upon old characters. However, even though ‘The Birds’ is extremely successful in gripping attention and continually building on an audiences expectations, it could be argued that the a shallow plot-line makes the narrative hard to follow and fully understand. Perhaps this is a flaw, but even without having a greatly understandable storyline, the overall production truly works wrenching the guts of audiences and continuously tightening the bolts of suspense throughout, until the final release at the end where viewers are still left with a frightening, eerie

closing shot (Figure 3) that leaves events unexplained, topping off another of Hitchcock’s dramatic and enticing masterpieces.

Figure 3 As a whole ‘The Birds’ left audiences with a great experience, allowing even modern viewers to feel the same emotions to an extent with only the clock-work special effects having aged. The suspense and terror portrayed throughout still remain due to the precise editing which provides audiences with the slow-and-steady camera shots to draw out the tension before releasing a frenzy of faced paced terror. The overall draw to the film is due to its success of its overall cinematography. Film Reviewer Wake considers the film as; “a textbook of brilliantly edited set pieces with ingenious uses of colour, sound, and landscape.” (Wake, 2000) Wake picks up on an interesting argument stating ‘The Birds’ is ‘textbook’ when it comes to its filming conventions. The film has been considered by many to be Hitchcock’s last unflawed production, arguably due to the success of the overall cinematography which notably makes ‘The Birds’ unique. The contrasts of colour schemes and the limited use of sound are two of the most successful conventions which are consistent during the film’s running, both providing different effects. For example, the decision to exclude forms of non-diegetic sounds such as soundtracks construct emphasis on character conversation, and more importantly, draws attention to the bird sounds which help to provide that uncomfortable atmosphere that Hitchcock is renowned for. The colour schemes also present various interpretations that could also be perceived to the link with the arguable symbolisms of the birds themselves. One interpretation that is valid suggests that the birds could possibly represent the female fight for attention from Mitch, the stereotypical attractive male. In more than one instant, the birds could act a sign of a jealous frenzy which also juxtapose with the envious green that Melanie bares throughout. She is also almost always the central focus of each shot which is also suggestive that attention is always on her. This is also another of Hitchcock’s filming conventions having the beautiful blonde being the central attraction as well as being the victim of his horrors. With both conventions in mind, it could be said that without these aspects, the effect that the film has on viewers could be substantially changed.

Inarguably, the way in which ‘The Birds’ raises pulses makes the over experience a suspenseful adventure provokes questions about the true meanings of the film. Nevertheless the distinguished filming techniques that are evident within allow Hitchcock’s work to be unquestionably unique to his name. ‘The Birds’ is “Unmistakably, one of the master's best.” (Baumgarten, 2000)

Review Bibliography

References Hanke, K (2007) available at; www.mountainx.com; www.mountainx.com/movies/review/birds#.UQ67aaWEx8E [accessed online on 2 February 2013]. Wake, B (2000) available at; www.culturevulture.net; http://www.culturevulture.net/Movies/Birds.htm [accessed online on 2 February 2013]. Baumgarten, M (2000) available at; www.rottentomatoes.com; www.austinchronicle.com/calendar/film/1999-08-19/the-birds/ [accessed online on 3 February 2013].

Illustrations Figure 1: http://posterwire.com/wp-content/uploads/the_birds.jpg Figure 2: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_c97wTvqBTY/TDH8T8Xd_dI/AAAAAAAAAGk/T00tpiK5A4w/s1600/the+birds.jpg Figure 3: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/eb9wVQZyeNI/TVl_GAw8qcI/AAAAAAAAAxY/AYl6UsBlJEs/s1600/birds_ending.jpg

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