Director – Alfred Hitchcock
Writers – Daphne du Maurier (original story), Evan Hunter (screenplay)
Alfred Hitchcock, it is known, was not always very kind to the women in his life; The Birds could well be seen as a commentary on that issue.
It almost feels as if the real birds in the film are a manifestation of the state of mind of the female characters within it. The shreiking hysteria that erupts as a swarm of canaries squawk down a chimney and out of the fireplace (perhaps some kind of symbolic opening or another) is echoed by the women who squeal in fright and despair as the birds flock around them, clouding their views. This is not an outlook that I share, but it is a perception of the content of the film.
The birds slowly congregate at a children’s playground, a place also often frequented by women. The male lead, Rod Taylor, is frightened and cautious when he passes, taunted by the calls and cries of the birds. Perhaps it is a rise in feminism itself that underpins the film? The male figures do not seem to like it very much when the women speak out, but instead feel attacked and trapped by the shrill calls. To suppose that Hitchcock is criticising women because of this does not take into account that he could also be sympathetic to their cause. His female lead, Tippi Hedren, of course, was adored by him, and a they step carefully around the caustic cawing crows, they creep around the very concept of women’s liberty, but also maintaining a social order and sense of gender roles. Nature itself is responding to the imbalance that industrialisation has imposed upon it, and it is clear that if you push too hard, the opposing side will push back. Tread carefully, and don’t get your feathers in a flap.
Try our quiz to guess the classic British film from the clues we’ve given:
- This film was made by Alfred Hitchcock and starred Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. The main character was an anti-hero who used to steal jewels, but wants to stop his life of crime, only he gets accused of a robbery and has to find the real criminal who stole it.
- A film featuring The Beatles, this phrase was one that Ringo used to say that meant that he had had a long, tiring day.
- This film by Guy Ritchie features a group of guys who get involved in a card game that they lose a lot of money on and get in a lot of trouble trying to make the money back.
- A James Bond classic set in New Orleans with a secret organisation involved in voodoo activities and a beautiful yet dangerous Tarot card reader.
- In the bleak days of the Cold War, espionage veteran George Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6.
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Director – Alfred Hitchcock
Writers – Alec Coppel (screenplay), Samuel A. Taylor (screenplay), Maxwell Anderson (uncredited), Pierre Boileau (original story), Thomas Narcejac (original story)
There are some films that stick with you long after you finish watching them, ingraining themselves into your memory with their iconic imagery. Vertigo is one of those films, as unsettling as the psychological condition of the title. The down-trodden detective Scottie, a stern, dignified Jimmy Stewart, is tasked with tracking a mesmerising young woman, Madeleine, played by a striking Kim Novak, who happens to be the wife of his friend, and who is suffering from suicidal tendencies that his friend wants Scottie to protect her from.
The film is all about the act of falling – falling in love, falling from grace, and literally falling, on a number of occasions.
Then there’s THAT reverse zoom dolly shot, a benchmark in cinematography that manages to depict the head-spinning condition of acrophobia spot on. The soaring Bernard Hermann score enhances this feeling too, swirling and out of time, claustrophobic and breathless. The shimmering images and uneasy plot will disturb and disorientate you, just as the director intended. Vertigo is a head-spinning experience.