Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

The Birds

It's the story of a quest. Only with gender reversal. A woman is the questor and a man the prize.  To achieve the prize she must cross water, form an alliance with the dark girl who is Rose Red to her Rose White and defeat the gorgon mother who has turned earlier suitors to stone. The birds are the creatures of the wounded mother's fear and rage.

Is that what Hitchcock really intended? Did he know he was filling his film with archetypes? Hard to say. My guess is he didn't want to know.  Better to let the unconscious do its work unquestioned-  you get better results that way.   An opening that is pure romantic comedy- with the stars doing passable imitations of Cary Grant and Grace Kelly- only gradually slopes to nightmare. On the surface The Birds is a straighforward disaster movie- in the genre of Jaws or Attack of the Killer Bees- and its success on this level- as light entertainment- disguises its other identity as mythic dream- perverse, fetishistic, uncanny- containing some of the strangest images ever committed to film.

But what does the ending mean? The heroine, bloodied in her quest, her head bandaged, her mind unhinged, is helped out to the car by mother and son. She squeezes the mother's arm. The pressure is returned.  So who exactly has won?  The car moves off down a winding road through a moonlit landscape covered in birds, birds, birds, as far as the eye can see...
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