|Fig. 1 'The Birds' (1963)|
While the effects are not particularly frightening (a seagull pecking at someones hand does not look very scary), the camera shots and sound design is what makes this film unsettling. While the sound of the birds when they attack remains familiar there is something eerily different about it, it falls within the Uncanny Valley. The sound makes them feel unnatural, or maybe supernatural, as if they have been possessed by an evil spirit or infected by some sort of disease.
While there is no actual score within the film, Bernard Herrman (who designed the famous score used in 'Psycho') developed the other-worldly sounds of the birds during their assaults. Using the absence of music within the film, Hitchcock is able to build up an impressive amount of tension before chaotic bird attacks, "...the bird-attack sequences are tremendously complex...and the absence of a score renders the horror more immediate: Hitchcock's long-time composer Bernard Herrmann fashioned an eerie soundtrack of claws, strident with screeches and rustling wings," (Sooke, 2015).
|Fig. 2 Bird Horde|
Just by how Hitchcock frames his characters, it is clear to see how one is jealous or feel threatened by the presence of another. For example, it is clear that Annie (Suzanne Pleshette) was a previous lover of Mitch's (Rod Taylor) and is jealous of Melanie's (Tippi Hedren) relationship with him. Just by how the two interact and how the camera moves from one to the other, we can see that they feel threatened by each other but aren't exactly rivals either. Another example is Mitch's overprotective mother, Lydia (Jessica Tandy). Due to how Hitchcock placed his cameras and sequenced his shots, a simple glance from Lydia towards Melanie is all it takes to express her feelings of jealousy and vulnerability.
|Fig. 3 Jealous Mother|
The reason behind the birds attacking is not the only thing that Hitchcock left open-ended. Unlike 'Psycho', this film has no clear outcome or ending. In fact, Hitchcock seems to tease the audience by having Mitch hear a radio report near the end of the film saying that there have been bird attacks in other cities. This does not mean the ending was a let down, "what stirs me the most about The Birds is not what it puts in but what it leaves out...Electrifying, insurrectionist Psycho still felt the need to wheel on a psychiatrist to explain Norman Bates...But The Birds floats free...a non-resolution, an open ending - the perfect closing that leaves the world in the balance and its mysteries all intact," (Brooks, 2012). Instead of forcing a strict conclusion, sometimes it is better to end on a high note to allow the viewer to question and reflect.
Brooks, X. (2012) My Favourite Hitchcock: The Birds At: http://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2012/jul/31/my-favourite-hitchcock-the-birds Accessed on: 26/1/2016
Crowther, B. (1963) The Birds (1963) At: http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9D05E7D9143CEF3BBC4953DFB2668388679EDE Accessed on: 26/1/2016
Sooke, A. (2015) The Birds, Review: 'Disturbing' At: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/11334674/The-Birds-review-disturbing.html Accessed on: 26/1/2016
Figure 1. The Birds [Poster] At: http://www.clevelandcinemas.com/images/promos/birds.jpg Accessed on: 27/1/2016
Figure 2. Bird Horde [Film Still] At: http://the.hitchcock.zone/wiki/1000_Frames_of_The_Birds_(1963)_-_frame_950 Accessed on: 26/1/2016
Figure 3. Jealous Mother [Film Still] At: http://the.hitchcock.zone/wiki/1000_Frames_of_The_Birds_(1963)_-_frame_283 Accessed on: 26/1/2016