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The Birds is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s finest works of technical achievement. In this review I will provide an overview of performance, describe the films general theme, plot, character development, and style. As well as giving examples of standard editing technique used in this film compared to today’s new technology of editing technique. I will show how costumes, makeup, and acting lead to and detract from a memorable viewing experience of watching the film The Birds. Overview of Performance Tippi Hedren’s performance as Melanie Daniels impressed me.
Her character came across as fashionable, chic, and promiscuous.
She begins a flirtation with Mitch that seems innocent enough but becomes boldly aggressive. Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), a San Francisco lawyer and mama’s boy unable of any obligation to a relationship; Taylor’s performance is one of subtleness and intensity. Lydia Brenner (Jessica Tandy), Mitch’s fearful mother, unhappy because the passing away of her husband and dreadfully resentful of any woman who demonstrate an attraction to her son; Annie Hayworth (Suzanne Pleshette), a schoolteacher still sour and infatuated long after Mitch has reject her affections.
The performance of each actor was talented and skillful and improved the development of their character. Theme, Plot, Character Development, and Style Even though the very title puts the birds in the front position, the human interaction is at the heart of this movie. Hitchcock deliberately offers no logical or reasonable enlightenment for the bird attacks; he focuses the audience attention on how people respond in such a trying situation.
In this small town birds of all species suddenly begin to attack people. The plot: Melanie Daniels wealthy socialite while shopping for a bird for her aunt is noticed by Mitch Brenner a lawyer.
He recognizes Melanie but pretends to mistake her for an assistant. She then decides to obtain her own revenge back at Mitch by buying the birds and driving up to the small town of Bodega Bay, where Mitch spends his weekends with his sister and mother. Shortly after she arrives, Melanie is attacked by a gull, but this is just the beginning of a series of attacks by an increasing number of birds. The character development in this film was not strong in the beginning but as the movie makes progress a few character-to-character subplots begin to take place and each character is defined a little at a time.
Melanie Daniels and Mitch Brenner become romantically involved. Annie Hayworth is still in love with Mitch from years previously. Then we have Mitch’s mother, Lydia Brenner, who is protective of her son because her husband died and she does not want to be left alone. These subplots help the development of each character. The style of film would be a narrative movie because it tells a story. To be considered as a narrative film the movie must “begin with expository material, add levels of complication, build a climax, and end with a resolution of all the plot element” (Sporre, 2009, p. 15). This film was created in 1963 as was given the literary style as a horror story. In most of these films it is usual for the audience to know the plot before it begins but the brilliant Alfred Hitchcock broke all cliches with this movie that many film summaries do not give a clear definition of the theme or plot for this film. Many movie goers believe it to be a movie that pits nature against man in an apocalyptic disaster others think that it is Melanie Daniels emotions that cause all the bird attacks (Carlson, 2002-2003).
As I sat and watched this movie for the first time, I picked up a different theme than any I have read about in my research. I believe that Melanie Daniels was the cause of the birds attacking this small town of Bodega Bay because she as broken rules of religion. To me these birds were sent to smite her from a higher power. In the opening scene the viewer will find the birds hovering above as Melanie walks into the pet shop. The first attack was on Melanie Daniels by a sea gull after she broke into the neighbors home (Mitch, as in respect they neighbor).
The second attack happen during Cathy’s birthday party after Melanie did not honor her mother. Throughout the movie the audience learns that Melanie is not a very innocent person. She is involved in many practical jokes (jumping into a lake naked). This theme is also stated by the extras in the restaurant scene were a man states a certain chapter in the Bible and the mother of the children clearly states that these attacks are because of Melanie and that she is evil. Hitchcock had created these scenes so that it would not be obvious to the audience.
The man just look like he is crazy stating that it is the end of the world and the mother just seems to be going through hysterics because of the situation. The movie ends with a finale attack on Melanie Daniels. This leave me to believe that the theme of this film is religious-based and Melanie Daniels was the reason for the attacks of the birds (Universal Studios, 1963). Editing Techniques For a film created in 1963 the editing techniques and special effects were amazing but a bit more noticeable. Since it such an old movie these techniques would take away from viewing pleasure.
Now we have smoother transitions and better effects. Some of these effects were created using a standard blue screen. The blue screen is a “technique in which the foreground action is superimposed on a blue screen that is then eliminated digitally while a new background is substituted” (“Movie Terms“, 2005, p. 37). This would normally be used for a film of this period. You can see this when Melanie is in the motor boat and they use the blue screen to film then replace it with a painted background. Editing is the visual elements in a film. It also gives the film the power to communicate effectively through some common techniques.
Editing techniques such as cut, montage, close ups, fade out, and fade in help the film follow without interrupting the audiences viewing pleasure (Sporre, 2009). But in this movie the scene in which Melanie is look out the window of the restaurant and see the car blow up Hitchcock does many cuts of her facial express that I could not help but laugh aloud instead of feeling shocked or horrified from the explosion that caused a death of a man. Another thing I notice was that the movie did not have music playing in the background but had the sound of birds flapping and chirping. This just gave it more of a lifelike feeling.
Set Design, Costume, Makeup, and Acting Every character was fashioned in a style that helped build their character and developed the setting for movie. The characters from the small town were dress in such a fashion. Melanie was dressed in high fashion clothing showing her status in society and her wealth. The Makeup on the characters was not overdone so as to not take away from the movie. The one think I was looking for was over acting because I have noticed it in other films from around the same period. I was very impressed that there was no over acting that would detract from the film. The set design was magnificent.
Most of the film was shot in a small town. This gave the film a realistic approach and a wonderful set design. Conclusion In conclusion, “The Birds” is very much a character-driven story with great character development of the few main characters. Plot and theme of the story are still debatable with no genuine clear suggestion. The narrative style of the movie shows the brilliance of Alfred Hitchcock, who broke all cliches. All standard editing techniques was used to create a movie in 1963 and also used the best effects for that time. Set design, makeup, and acting did not detract from the film but only enhanced the realism of the movie.
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