Bird Watching: 5 Iconic Images From Hitchcock’s “The Birds”

At my other, lesser known blog, I’ve discussed my favorite things about Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, such as how it’s a love story yet brutal (they’ll peck your eyes out, kid!). It’s also amazing how the movie plays so well with such a minimalist soundtrack. Also, the birds can represent countless things all depending on the person watching it. However, right now I’d like to comment on certain images from the movie and what makes them so grand to my mind.

Image #1

the birds
Duck and cover!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For some reason, I always see this image in black and white online, though I’ve only ever seen the movie in color. Nevertheless, it is still a captivating image that captures a key theme in the movie: Running. Yes, something as simple as fleeing attacks can be regarded as a grand theme of sorts (and horror critics should apply this observation more often to less critically acclaimed films). In this photo, the main character, Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedron), is so busy running for herself that she obviously can not defend all of the children. How could she? When you are running from a violent attack, you likely can’t think and strategize as well as under normal circumstances. Even the adrenaline rush can only go so far. Also, you can’t try to fully understand your assailant or correct any misdeeds on your part that may have upset them. A hostile force is likely to stay hostile. You simply need to keep moving to stay alive. A lesson about the danger of revenge? In this case, nature’s revenge could be on a grand scale.  Everything is skillfully blended together in this image.  It seems more dramatic given the relaxed and comfortable beginning of the film.  It starts off pretty slow, but its forces amass over time.

Image #2birds-pop-horror-2

One of my favorite images from The Birds, as well as the buildup to it. First. there were no birds behind Melanie. Then one came. Then, before long, we get to this. A simple yet profound visual statement, where the familiar become unfamiliar, and with a sinister purpose (or perhaps no purpose at all, which may be scarier). We see nature’s deadly forces gather in a seemingly innocent way, and we humans feel we’re separate from them. We think we are not animals. We are not an aspect of the weather. Existence itself bows to us, right? Well, no. The seagull attacking Melanie Daniels earlier could have been a fluke. Other odd behavior from birds may have just been a temporary pattern. However, by this point, we get the feeling the birds aren’t going to relent for long. They are going to gather, like the calm before the storm. Then they will become the storm, and all hell will break loose. Then perhaps they’ll take a break, regroup. This image helps establish this new reality, and it is both subtle and paranoid at the same time.

Image #3
birds-pop-horror-3

Both beautiful and conquering, this image shows the birds as heralding a new dawn. Have they become the new boss in town? Perhaps they’re reminding us we never were the boss, but just got full of ourselves. Some believe the birds ease off whenever the human characters find each other. Others say the birds are just an irrational new force and they’ll keep attacking whenever their little bird brains tell them to. Either way, it’s suggested that the landscape is forever changed and we are not the only creature on earth vying for dominance.

Image #4  birds-pop-horror-4

When Mitch’s mother Lydia finds this gruesome scene, we know the birds aren’t tweeting the same old song. The brutality can’t be denied. Lydia is so shocked that she can’t even scream. Nothing could have prepared her for this.  Oddly enough, this scene shows more gore than the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Image #5
birds-pop-horror-5

 

 

 

 

 

 

This image is more on the surreal side. Everything looks out of place, including the telephone. The cracked glass, the outside conflagration, and the crying woman – all signify a disjointed reality in which nothing has purpose anymore. Plus, Melanie has turned her back on it all.  Yes, all the conveniences in life can be wiped out in mere moments. This calls to mind images from tsunamis rolling into cities or tornadoes and hurricanes. Perhaps more than any other image on this list, this one conveys the visual art of Hitchcock’s movies. Many great directors have moments like these, but Hitchcock manages to make them flow naturally, like they are naturally part of the story.  Most directors give such moments a “tacked on” feel.  They may still resonate with us, but we can tell the director’s just being artsy to impress.  In this movie, seemingly nothing separates the art from my experience of it, even when I dissect its imagery.  The moments are iconic yet organic.  Not bad for a shock film.

About wadewainio

Wade is a wannabe artist and musician (operating under the moniker Grandpa Helicopter), and an occasional radio DJ for WMTU 91.9 FM Houghton. He is an occasional writer for Undead Walking, and also makes up various blogs of his own. He even has a few books in the works. Then again, doesn't everyone?

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