At the beginning of the film in the first hour the attacks are slower and further apart with smaller types of birds. By the end the editing has sped up so there are repeated attacks, by bigger types of birds, gulls and such, and larger flocks as well. The first attacks are left so long that I almost began to question why the film was called “The Birds”. This is to build up a relationship with the characters, a thought which I have explored previously.
There are lovely moments in the film where shadows look like birds, and little shots of the innocent lovebirds, to make you suspicious and jumpy. What may seem like little unimportant shots actually help create the build up to each attack and so should be considered too. The last attack is on the Brenner house, it takes place at night and the characters are isolated and vulnerable. The fact it is dark in itself creates an uncomfortable feeling. As an audience we know there is going to be an attack. The first few shots are before the attack. The four people are in the lounge, Mitch then checks all the boards and kitchen. Build up to attack. Then they hear the birds. All begin to panic as Mitch stokes the fire. Mitch struggles with a gull which has smashed its way through a window. Mitch secures the main door, which was being pecked through. Lights go out.Order now
The birds leave. They all go to sleep. Melanie hears fluttering of wings and goes upstairs to investigate. She opens a door to a room and in the room she is attacked by a flock of birds. Mitch eventually arrives and pulls a very badly injured Melanie to safety. The whole scene starts with a few shots to get our geography of the place, and the build up of tension. The shots are mainly silent, with little talking in them. There is a shot of Mitch and mother, looking in different directions. Then a shot of Melanie and Cathy. At this point we realise that actually the mother should be with Cathy and be looking after her sick daughter but she is unbalanced so doesn’t.
The high skewed angle of the shot of Mrs Brenner shows this all to well, she looks awkward. When they all hear the birds coming, they are still the same positions, but separate. As a low angle shot shows Melanie looking scared we hear the chirping then flapping crescendo. Melanie looks small, ironic because actually the birds are. Then at one of the most adrenaline filled bits of the play, a gull smashes unexpectedly through the window, with an e.c.u to make us focus on it. It is at this point the bird sounds technically become diegetic, because we now know that the birds are making the sound. However since we have always linked that sound with the birds anyway, one could argue differently.
This is an example of Alfred Hitchcock playing around with sound. This time a high angle shot shows the vulnerability of them, and a similarly skewed shot Mrs Brenner is used on Melanie. Mitch struggles away with the gull, while Cathy and Mother crouch in the corner. The lines of the books on the bookshelves draw your eyes to them, huddled away. Just as Mitch succeeds in wrestling the gull out again, he needs to go and secure the main door, which has almost been pecked through. The cacophony of the birds is still there, and is beginning to really irritate the audience. Then the lights go out, in a dramatic turn. The sudden darkness is accompanied by a chilling scream, like a human, but we know it is bird. Because it sounds so human, it really is a chilling moment. The darkness seems to press around them, helping develop the claustrophobic, caged atmosphere further.
The noise of the birds’ diminuendos away and they are gone. With the silence comes relaxation. The audience relax because that awful noise has gone. There is then a series of shots where Mitch comes in from the right in a close-up low angle, and Melanie does the mirror image, from the left after, like to lovebirds joining together. Then there is an interesting shot of the mother which again is another shot the same as Melanie and Mitch’s, but it is m/s because she is a less important character.
Then there is a lovely shot as the camera tracks back with a wide shot lower angle. Then a cut to the fireplace, which dissolves to show the passing of time. There is then a repeat of the same shot as at the very start, a pan w/s of all the characters. Melanie hears fluttering from upstairs and goes to investigate, (m/s pan, tilt, track). At this point we don’t know where the sound is coming from, it could be the lovebirds, it could be down the chimney, we don’t know.
The next bit is by far one of the tensest sequences in the whole film. There is an absence of diegetic sound, as if the sound holding it’s breath to. The lack of sound in this sequence is odd, because throughout the film whenever there has been a bird attack, that sound has come, but it doesn’t now. This almost lulls us into thinking there won’t be an attack. As she climbs the stairs there are a few shots in her p.o.v, then they switch to a reverse mid-shot. There is a totally unrealistic spotlight on her, but I never really noticed that. The light picks out her facial features, and makes her our only focus. There is now the occasional flutter to heard, but only to remind us why she is going upstairs.
The tension builds to such a point where you just want to stand up a yell at her not to continue up the stairs any further. She opens the door with an extreme close-up low angle of her hand, the pressure focuses on that. In the room, she is suddenly attacked by a flock of birds. Now comes the most superb sequence, over 70 jump cuts, using c/u, e.c.u, m/s. Hitchcock uses the jump cuts so effectively that it confuses the audience, makes them feel as though they are the character and feel their disorientation. The sound of beating wings crescendos and diminuendos rapidly, like a train almost, to keep the momentum of the scene going. The speed is such that after a while your brain really can’t take anymore. It starts to switch off, because it just wants to slow down. This is when the hero Mitch makes his entrance, and pulls her to safety.
The high point in the film is most definitely the sequence when she climbs the stairs. It is the most tension filled part, so much so I could hardly breathe. I think Hitchcock does create tension very well. I feel that very strongly. His use camera angles and sound, particularly that irritating bird sound succeeds in entertaining and building suspense. However although I feel he is good at tension, I do feel that he often carries a scene on a little too long.
For example, in the Brenner house bird attack on Melanie, I did just begin to think that the attack carried on a little bit past the interesting mark. With the attack on the school children too, it carried on a bit too long, as though the director had got slightly carried away. I also loved the story of “The Birds” by Daphne Du Maurier. I was slightly disappointed that the film was so loosely based on the book, but I do see how the story may not have made the most interesting film. Overall, I like his work and liked how he directed the film.