Classic Movie Review: The Birds

On Halloween, I watched the movie The Birds with my host family. During the summer, we had a bird feeder in our yard. One day, there were flocks of blackbirds covering the backyard. My host mom told me how this backyard scene reminded her of a scene in The Birds. The director, Alfred Hitchcock, is well known for the suspenseful and tense tone in his movies. For that reason, last Saturday on Halloween was the perfect time to watch that movie.

The story is about Melanie, Mitch and his family, the people who live in the town of  Bodega Bay — and the birds. Melanie is a wealthy girl who meets lawyer Mitch in a pet shop, and later falls in love with him. The next day, Melanie takes the “love birds,” which Mitch was looking for, to the town of Bodega Bay, where Mitch lives. However, Melanie is attacked and injured by a seagull. This incident of bird attacks is just a small prelude to large-scale bird attacks on humans. Melanie stays in the town to let her injuries heal. She has the chance to get to know Mitch’s family and to attend Mitch’s sister Cathy’s birthday party. However, the harassment caused by the town’s bird infestation gradually dominates the story. These birds gather at increasing rates, attacking and killing more and more residents, which leaves the town trapped by a crazy bird plague. People live in panic and seek ways to escape this terrible situation. 

In this film, the romantic relationship between Melanie and Mitch is just at the beginning of the story and is only a minor plotline. I felt unsettled when the film closed; however, after thinking through the whole movie again, I think it has a complete ending. There are two storylines in the movie: one about unprovoked attacks by birds against humans and the other concerning family conflicts. The bird infestation seems to reflect the family’s conflicts and relationships.

Spoiler alert: at first, the “love birds” that Melanie delivers to Mitch seem like a symbol of their love. After Melanie leaves the birds in Mitch’s house, there is a seagull that comes after her. In the next scene, Mitch’s mom Lydia appears while Mitch helps Melanie clean up her cuts. Lydia does not like Melanie because she thinks Melanie is going to take her son away from her. The second instance of the symbolism of the birds l is when Melanie debates whether she is going to Cathy’s birthday or staying home. She has a conversation with Annie, Mitch’s ex-girlfriend, who tells her: “Never mind Lydia. Do you want to go?” When Melanie expresses her wish to leave, Annie simply says: “Then go.” At that moment, a bird hits the door of Annie’s house and dies, like a Roman omen. During Cathy’s birthday party, Melanie and Mitch are hanging out. When Lydia sees them, the camera lingers over her displeased look. At the same time, a pack of birds begins to attack people. After the attack in Mitch’s house, Lydia tries to drive Melanie away, but Mitch stays with her. Meanwhile, the love birds are chirping, and Cathy says: “Just listen to those lovebirds.” The contrast between Lydia’s irritable and jealous attitude, Mitch’s love for Melanie, and Melanie’s misinterpretation of the “love bird” sounds creates a dramatic contrast. Then, a large swarm of birds poured in through the chimney and began to attack them. 

After the attack, Melanie saves Lydia, which eases the strained relationship between them, suggesting that Lydia accepted Melanie regardless of past concerns. Additionally, the birds do not attack them when they leave. That scene shows the resolution of all the conflicts, and the family flees to safety together. 

In short, other than the symbolic meanings of the birds, Hitchcock doesn’t clearly indicate where they come from or where they will appear. For the audience, those questions will remain unanswered.

I recommend this movie to people who love to watch classical suspense-filled movies! When you watch, you may find different interpretations than me. However, for middle schoolers, make sure to ask your parent’s permission beforehand because this movie may leave you with nightmares.

Carol Li ‘21, Co-Sports Editor