Sunday, 12 February 2017

"Birds" review

  Famous director "master of suspense" Alfred Hitchcock in 1963 filmed "Birds" a mix of horror, thriller and also disaster genre.  It stands to mention that "Birds" does not inferior in atmosphere and suspense to another Hitchcock’s masterpiece "Psycho" and one might even say, attracted more interest especially to its first half of the film.
  The picture begins very peacefully as a love story, and suddenly the main protagonist Melanie Daniels is attacked by birds. Bird attacks on the town, where Melanie went to meet her love interest Mitchell Brenner, are becoming fiercer and fiercer, down to human losses and giant fire at a gas station. On the other hand, the love between Melanie and Mitch enters a decisive phase (stage) and in the end lovers leave the town under the threatening looks of infinite hordes of birds.
   First of all, the audience is not thrown directly into the disaster in the form of bird attacks. About a half of the movie "Birds" the audience is becoming acquainted with the film's characters, with the main heroine and how little by little reality underneath her feet starts bends. Hitchcock (1963) himself said that "it was vital to get to know the people [...] And we must take our time, get absorbed in the atmosphere before the birds come."
   Suspense is achieved by means of delaying attacks of the birds expected by the audience. This is particularly evident in the episode when Melanie is smoking in the school yard, while a huge flock of black birds gradually gathers behind her back.
Figure 1. Suspense gathered near school in a form of huge flock of crows(2017)

   Besides, the effect of suspense in "Birds" is also reached by different and very successful camera angles. Very memorable moments in this film were low angle camera shots in the end when main heroes full of fear and horror and trapped inside the house are slowly walking toward the camera. They are looking up at the ceiling just after bird attack. At that moment they look so defenceless and the ceiling above seems about to be broken through by the birds.
Figure 2. Low angle camera shots of main protagonists: Mitchell, Melanie, Lydia(2017)

  Birds are the symbol of peace, however, if earlier people kept birds in cages, now our feathered friends locked people inside their cars and houses, like cages. But the main question of the picture "Birds" is: "Why they attacked?" Their attacks are the "MacGuffin" of this movie, something what everybody wants to know about, they desire to know why the attacks are happening.
Brendon Hanley points out that "we're never sure why the birds are rising up, their behavior seems to be a response to humankind's complacency and arrogance."
   However, on "Why they attacked?" there are a lot of theories, options, hidden meanings and interpretations. Robin Wood(1977) explores three possible options of inexplicable attacks of birds. "In the first version, the birds are taking revenge on humans for the tormented nature. In the second, the bird sent down by God to punish mankind [...] According to the third interpretation, this winged creatures embody the tension between the protagonists"(Aleksey Jusev, 2005), however, it is unclear how this version explains the birds attack on the defenceless and innocent children. Despite this, this version is likely the most unique and thought- provoking one. One can say that all the evil thoughts and desires of people materialised in the form of birds. And if so then, in the end, all the evil desires and thoughts went back to people by attacking them in the form of birds. This situation resembles a boomerang.
   But maybe birds are evil desires of just only one human – our main protagonist Melanie Daniels. Women are often compared to birds by these characteristics: long claws, beautiful feathers, noisy, travel in packs - some of these characteristics we clearly can see in our heroine. Melanie is a strong, independent woman, who fought for her love, and in the end won it. She defeated two other women, who were also not indifferent to Mitch: his Mother and his ex-lover Annie Hayworth. Later Annie was found dead, probably Melanie’s jealousy in the form of birds killed her. Yet still, the final scene shows us the punishment of Melanie for her sins – birds attack her until she loses consciousness. From a strong and independent she transforms into a weakling who strongly depends on others.
Figure 3. Melanie "defeated" (2016)

   Talking about Mitch’s Mother  Lydia, Slavoj Žižek(2006) seems to be correct when he states that "if we will push psychoanalytic formula, violent attacks of the birds are obviously explosive outburst of maternal superego, maternal figure, trying to prevent sexual relationship". There is a chance that like Melanie, birds are Lydia’s motherly jealousy. They are the form of her anxiety that she Melanie would steal him from her, that she would be left alone. The closer Mitch and Melanie were to each other, the fiercer were the attack of the birds.
  One can say that "Birds" is a movie about women's emotions and hidden desires, about their fight for the same goal, and about what they are willing to do to achieve that goal.
1. Hitchcock, A. (1963) [Interview face to face, 1963]. 
2. Hanley, B. "Review by Brendon Hanley" At: (Accessed on 11 February 2017) 
3. Jusev, A. (2005) ""Птицы" Хичкока и ядерные ракеты времён карибского кризиса"[In Russian]"Hitchcock's "Birds" and Cuban Missile Crisis" Translated by Anastasija Strelcova At: (Accessed on 11 February 2017) 
4. Slavoj Žižek. (2006). THE PERVERT'S GUIDE TO CINEMA . [Online Video]. Available at: [Accessed: 11 February 2017].

1. Figure 1.(2017)[Film Still], accessed on 11 February 2017.
2. Figure 2.(2017)[Film Still], accessed on 11 February 2017.
3. Figure 3.FILM SUFI(2016)[Film Still], accessed on 11 February 2017.

1 comment:

  1. Another well thought through review Anastasija.

    Be careful of statements like this one -
    'Later Annie was found dead, probably Melanie’s jealousy in the form of birds killed her.'
    Using 'probably' is a bit too assumptive... you could say something like,
    'Later Annie was found dead, and it could be inferred that it was Melanie’s jealousy in the form of birds killed her.'