The Birds

Screening on Film
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
With Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, Jessica Tandy.
US, 1963, 35mm, color, 120 min.
Print source: Universal

“The antagonists were birds, you know,” set designer Robert Boyle told Cahiers du Cinéma. “It wasn’t a distant country that’s trying to do us in, it wasn’t a murderer or a rapist. It was something... strange.” A magnificent technological achievement involving complex matte work and an innovative electronic soundtrack, The Birds is also one of Hitchcock’s most intensely personal and mysterious films. The director admitted to Truffaut that he experienced an unusual degree of “emotional turmoil” on the set, much of which he invested in Tippi Hedren’s anxiety-ridden performance. Alternatively read in terms of nuclear threat, repressed desires, and the audience’s own complacency, the birds finally stand for forces beyond our control. As much as any of the more expressly modernist films released in 1963, Hitchcock’s masterpiece is precisely about the failure to find meaning—the director’s last word to those critics who would fault his films for being implausible.

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