Love in Hitchcock's Film "The Birds"

Seminar Paper, 2005

18 Pages, Grade: 2,7


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Love in Alfred Hitchcock’s „The Birds“
2.1 Alfred Hitchcock – A short biography
2.2 Hitchcock’s Film “The Birds”
2.2.1 Facts and plot
2.2.2 Subject matter: Interpersonal relationships “Das innere Sehen” „Three needy women“ Annie Lydia Melanie The role of the birds The attacking birds The lovebirds

3. Conclusion

4. Works consulted
4.1 List of films
4.2 List of literature

5. Appendix – Division of the Film into chapters

1. Introduction

In these times badmouthing about other people and playing tricks on them is the order of the day. Being intimidated and embarrassed has become normal and unspectacular. People, who act really kind, are rare and if they do, the person they are acting nicely towards, is irritated. It seems like we have lost the ability to give and accept love and that superficiality and coolness are spread more and more.

The same instances seem to have occurred more than 40 years ago, when Hitchcock was working on his brilliant film “The Birds”. Within the following I am going to reveal, how love or a lack of love utters in Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and what it leads to in case of the three characters Annie, Lydia and Melanie. Furthermore I will show what role birds play in this context. To better be able to analyse the film I have divided it into chapters, as does the DVD. The exact division can be seen in the appendix.

2. Love in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”

2.1 Alfred Hitchcock – A short biography

Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock is known as one of the best English directors and producers[1] of all times. He was born in Leytonstone nearby London, England on the 13th of August 1899 as the youngest of William (1862-1914) and Emma Jane Hitchcock’s (1863-1942)[2] three children of.

The stepping-stone for his career was laid in 1915 yet, when he was hired by the “W.T. Henley Telegraph and Cable Company”, where, later on, one of his supervisors discovered “Hitch’s” creative spirit and took him into the public relations department[3]. Via this job, Hitchcock got to know many important people and made connection with popular producers. At the film production company “Famous Players Lasky” (later “Paramount Pictures”[4] ), where he worked from 1920 on, he got to know Alma Reville, a cutter, whom he married in 1926[5]. Their only child Patricia Alma Hitchcock was born on the 7th of July the same year[6].

By and by, Alfred gained experience in directing. With films like “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1934) and “The 39 Steps” (1935)[7] he achieved huge success and became more and more popular. In 1938, he signed a contract with David O. Selznick and in the following year the family moved to Los Angeles, California, USA[8]. Hitchcock founded his own film production company, “Transatlantic Pictures”, in 1946, which lasted for only three years[9]. Sensational Films like “Rear Window” (1953) and “Vertigo” (1957)[10] followed and in 1960 Hitchcock’s career reached its climax when “Psycho” was released.

Twenty years and six films later, on the 29th of April 1980 in L.A., California, Alfred Joseph Hitchcock died a sudden death of renal failure[11].

Throughout his whole life, Alfred Hitchcock made 53 films[12]. He is famous for having done a cameo in almost all of his films and for the concept of the “MacGuffin”[13], a piece of information that is left out because it is of no importance for the plot, but only for the characters[14]. He was awarded various prizes and six of his films have been nominated for the “Oscar”[15] - five of which in the category “Best Director” („Lifeboat“ (1944), „Spellbound“ (1945), „Strangers on a train“ (1951), “Rear Window” (1954) and “Psycho” (1960)[16] ). Also, “Hitch” was given the “Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award” for his lifework in 1967[17].

Besides film, he worked on TV-series, such as “Alfred Hitchcock presents” and the “Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine”[18].

2.2 Hitchcock’s Film “The Birds”

2.2.1 Facts and plot

“The Birds” is Hitchcock’s 48th film[19] and it is based on the novel “The Birds” (1952) by Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989)[20]. It is also his most expensive and technically most challenging Film[21]. The film does not contain any music. All sounds have been created by Oskar Sala via his Trautonium[22]. “The Birds” started in Europe in September 1963 and was not very successful[23].

While du Maurier creates a rather apocalyptical image with the birds intending to erase humanity[24], this is not the case in “Hitch’s” film. In fact, the only pattern Hitchcock finds interesting about the novel, are the bird attacks. The whole plot is a different one. He has added the “Konstruktion eines heterosexuellen Paares“[25] as well as the abnormal, much too close relationship between mother and son[26].

Melanie Daniels, a rich, beautiful and superficial woman, gets to know Mitchell Brenner, a lawyer in a pet shop in San Francisco[27]. Although he plays a joke on her to demonstrate to her her own reckless behaviour, she follows the attractive man to Bodega Bay, where he spends the weekends together with his mother Lydia and his much younger sister Cathy. Lydia, who has lost her husband four years ago, reveals to be very jealous and possessive as Mitch and Melanie get closer[28]. She acts unkind and cold towards Melanie unlike Annie, Mitch’s ex-girlfriend. Their relationship suffered from Lydia’s behaviour[29] and Annie had to give up on Mitch.

Since Melanie has arrived in Bodega Bay, birds of all species have started to attack humans.

By and by, the attacks get more powerful. A farmer and Annie are killed by birds, Melanie almost loses her life in a heavy assault[30]. Mitch saves her, the ice between Lydia and Melanie has begun to melt, and there seems to be a chance for the young couple’s love. At last the family flees from Bodega Bay, to escape another attack.

2.2.2 Subject matter: Interpersonal relationships

Subject matter of Hitchcock’s film “The Birds” are interpersonal relationships and the superficiality most people are driven by[31]. The world the characters live in is a “[…] world of early relationships gone wrong, full of splitting, […] persecutory anxiety and erotic longings”[32]. “Die ‘Übeltäter’ in dieser [Welt] […] sind Menschen, die sich gegenseitig zu wenig Respekt entgegenbringen [...][33]. Their emotional life is underdeveloped and they are unable to love[34]. To see whether the characters are able to change, “[die] in Bewegung geratenen Gefühlskonstellationen”[35] are put to the test. “Das innere Sehen”

“[…] [Der] Film [operiert ausschließlich] auf der symbolischen Ebene.”[36]. It is a “[...] Abhandlung über das innere Sehen [...].[37] ”, about eyes that do not see[38]. In every sequence one of the female characters happens to have that lost look, Hitchcock was so fascinated by[39], “[...] [diesen] Blick des Wahnsinns, diese[n]starre[n] Blick eines Menschen, der im Gefängnis seines Körpers, seiner Sünden oder seiner gefühlsmäßigen Verstrickungen zur Bewegungslo- sigkeit verdammt ist“[40].

When Melanie is in the boat, Mitch needs field glasses to be able to see her at all[41]. This occurrence indicates how good and consequently Melanie hides her feelings and does not want to let anybody into her heart. Furthermore she has got the look described above when she is driving the boat away from the Brenners’ house. So do Annie and Lydia, when Mitch and Melanie are coming back from their little stroll in the dune. Both of them express their fear of losing Mitch to Melanie in the sentence “I see”[42].

At Cathy’s birthday party the children are playing blindman’s bluff and Cathy is the one blindfoldedly searching[43]. She is searching for someone to give her love to, and - which is way more important - receive love from, since her mother, Lydia is not able to be that someone.

A girl loses her glasses in an attack[44], a farmer has got his eyes pecked out by birds and one of Mitch’s clients has killed his wife because she did not want him to watch TV.

All these incidents signify relationships that have been misread and needs that have been neglected.


[1] Alfred Hitchcock. 26.07.2005

[2] Enno Patalas, Alfred Hitchcock. Hrsg. Martin Sulzer-Reichel. (München: dtv, 1999) 11.

[3] Patalas, 18.

[4] Alfred Hitchcock. 26.07.2005

[5] Alfred Hitchcock. 26.07.2005

[6] Alfred Hitchcock. 26.07.2005

[7] Alfred Hitchcock. 26.07.2005

[8] Alfred Hitchcock. 26.07.2005

[9] Alfred Hitchcock. 26.07.2005

[10] Alfred Hitchcock. 26.07.2005

[11] Alfred Hitchcock. 26.07.2005

[12] Francois Truffaut, Mr. Hitchcock, wie haben Sie das gemacht?. Hrsg. Robert Fische. Übers. Frieda Grafe und Enno Patalas. (München: Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, 1983) XI.

[13] Alfred Hitchcock. 26.07.2005

[14] Vibeke Reuter, „Alfred Hitchcocks Handschrift. Vom literarischen zum filmischen Text“. Filmgeschichte International. Bd. 15. (Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier, 2005) 38.

[15] Alfred Hitchcock. 26.07.2005

[16] Alfred Hitchcock. 26.07.2005

[17] Awards Database. 01.08.2005

[18] Alfred Hitchcock. 26.07.2005

[19] Truffaut, X.

[20] Daphne du Maurier. 01.08.2005

[21] Die Vögel. 26.07.2005

[22] Die Vögel. 26.07.2005

[23] Truffaut, 350.

[24] Reuter, 51.

[25] Reuter, 42.

[26] Reuter, 44.

[27] Die Vögel. 26.07.2005

[28] Die Vögel. 26.07.2005

[29] Die Vögel. 26.07.2005

[30] Die Vögel. 26.07.2005

[31] Spoto, 350.

[32] Jacqueline Herner, The Birds by Jacqueline Herner. 30.07.2005

[33] Spoto, 356.

[34] Spoto, 353.

[35] Claudia Lenssen, „The Birds (1962)”. Alfred Hitchcock. Hrsg. Lars-Olav Beier und Georg Seeßlen. (Berlin: Bertz, 1999) 413.

[36] Spoto, 350.

[37] Spoto, 357.

[38] Spoto, 357.

[39] Spoto, 357.

[40] Reuter, 39.

[41] Spoto, 358.

[42] The Birds, 1963, chapter 5/chapter7.

[43] Spoto, 358.

[44] The Birds, 1963, chapter 11.

Excerpt out of 18 pages


Love in Hitchcock's Film "The Birds"
University of Trier
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love, hitchcock, film, birds
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Julia Balogh (Author), 2005, Love in Hitchcock's Film "The Birds", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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