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The Birds The Birds

Alfred Hitchcock / USA / 1963 / 119 min / English

Birds turn against man in the classic by the master of suspense. “It could be the most terrifying motion picture I have ever made!” Hitchcock said. Probably it was the Cannes film festival’s scariest opening film ever.


In a San Francisco pet shop the well-off blonde Melanie Daniels is attracted to Mitch Brenner, a young lawyer who is trying to find a pair of lovebirds for his little sister. Acting on an impulse, Melanie decides to buy the birds and secretly leave them in Mitch’s house on an island in Bodega Bay. On her way back she is inexplicably attacked by a seagull…

“/…/ there’s a lot of detail in this movie; it’s absolutely essential because these little nuances enrich the over-all impact and strengthen the picture.”
- Alfred Hitchcock

»/…/ this is Hitchcock at his best. Full of subterranean hints as to the ways in which people cage each other, it's fierce and Freudian as well as great cinematic fun, with ample fodder for the amateur psychologist following up on Hitch's tortuous involvement with his leading ladies.”
- Tom Milne, Time Out

Jaws before the world was ready, Hitch’s much misappreciated follow-up to Psycho is arguably the greatest of all disaster films—a triumph of special effects, as well as the fountainhead of what has become known as gross-out horror.”
- J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

“/…/ I’ve always adored 1963’s The Birds (and no, they don’t need to be a metaphor or a symbol, just as long as they present a lethal threat to the humans in the movie) for its semi-abstract exploration of the psychopathology of fear.”
- Geoff Andrew, My top 12 Hitchcock films

“To seek something specifically human to which the birds are a metaphor is to miss the point of the film. For it is just as much about whatever is manlike in birds as whatever is birdlike in man.”
- Raymond Durgnat, The Strange Case of Alfred Hitchcock or, the Plain Man’s Hitchcock

“If Hitchcock himself told me tomorrow that the whole sequence was shot purely to give the audience “kicks,” that the only reason why Melanie doesn’t escape is that if she did the “kicks” would stop, I would merely quote him my favourite aphorism of D.H. Lawrence: “Never trust the artist – trust the tale.””
- Robin Wood, Hitchcock’s Films Revisited

“Here is a film that provides no answers and no escape. Chaos reigns from top to tail. /…/ The Birds is generally regarded as the last great Hitchcock movie /…/. Might it also stand as the essential Hitchcock movie, the purest and most confident /…/ ? Every time I watch it, I find myself more impressed with its daring, audacity and command of its material.”
- Xan Brooks, The Guardian

The Birds is here, and what a joy to behold a self-contained movie which does not feed parasitically on outside cultural references—Chekhov, Synge, O’Neill, Genet, Behan, Melville, or what have you. Drawing from the relatively invisible literary talents of Daphne DuMaurier and Evan Hunter, Alfred Hitchcock has fashioned a major work of cinematic art, and cinematic is the operative term here, not literary or sociological.”
- Andrew Sarris, The Village Voice

“My favourite [Hitchcock] is The Birds. It’s haunting, and it’s scary. When I saw it I was young, and it was just spooky birds, that’s all, but now I’m older I can see it’s a film about perversion and female sexuality. /…/ It’s genius.”
- Ang Lee

“A subtle, complex follow-up to Alfred Hitchcock’s biggest hit, Psycho, his fiftieth feature is quite different – and not just because this apocalyptic fantasy is his most abstract film, as Dave Kehr has noted /…/ it’s /…/ clear that Hitchcock has something metaphysical as well as physical in mind.
What keeps his scare show so unnervingly unpredictable is that the explanation we crave for why birds have started to attack humanity is never forthcoming. (Hitchcock said in interviews that The Birds was about “complacency”, without spelling out whether he meant that of his characters, his audience, or both).”
- Jonathan Rosenbaum, Cinema ritrovato

“As emblems of sexual tension, divine retribution, meaningless chaos, metaphysical inversion, and aching human guilt, his attacking birds acquire a metaphorical complexity and slipperiness worthy of Melville. Tippi Hedren's lead performance is still open to controversy, but her evident stage fright is put to sublimely Hitchcockian uses.”
- Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

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