“It’s the end of the world!”
From the very beginning of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 film The Birds, Melanie Daniels is set up as a troublemaker. She pretends to be an employee of the pet store when Mitch Brenner walks in, and after they talk for the first time, we learn that Melanie pulled a prank that landed her in court. Then the story is set in motion as she goes through a lot of trouble to get two lovebirds to Mitch.
She initially drops them off at his apartment (after finding his address), then when she finds out he isn’t there, she drives out to Bodega Bay, then she finds where his house is, learns his sister’s name and leaves the birds as a gift for her in their home.
Mitch follows after Melanie, just in time to see her get attacked by a gull. They grow close (after a brief period of quasi-hatred) and she spends a good deal of time with the Brenners. The mother is immediately unaccepting of Melanie, as she is with everyone according to Annie Hayworth. This opens up the possibility for an odd relationships between Mitch and Lydia. However, it never is revealed to be a strange relationship. Lydia just lost her husband and is protective of her son.
As far as stereotypical masculine/feminine coding, Mitch and Melanie aren’t that different from one another. They both take initiative when birds attack. Though, in the beginning, Melanie could have been seen as an “ask daddy to help and fix everything” kind of woman. That setup never follows through though.
The film has no musical score. While some people like having music to indicate when something bad is going to happen (like in Jaws), The Birds needs no such musicality. The silence is eerie. The silence keeps us in suspense, waiting to hear a bird flap it’s wings or caw or swoop down. The birds themselves create the noise that indicates something bad is going to happen. I think music would take away from that sensation.
The final scene shows hundreds of birds sitting outside the Brenners’ house as they drive away. For the most part they are still, and none of them are in flight. The beauty of the horror in this film is that we are left hanging in the anticipation of another attack. The screen goes black as we are stuck wondering if and fearing when they will attack again.
The Birds. Dir. Alfred Hitchcock. Perf. Tippi Hedren and Rod Taylor. Alfred J. Hitchcock Productions, 1963. DVD.
Wood, Robin. “The Birds.” Hitchcock’s Films Revisited. New York: Columbia UP, 1989. 153-72. Print.