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PATTERNS: THE BIRDS

THE BIRDS is about women, and women’s relationships, and more specifically, it is about the psychology of women in relation to men, and the effect that men (simply by existing, in a male-dominated world), have on women’s relations to other women. It is about how women (Mothers, Lovers, Friends, Sisters, Daughters, Neighbors) relate and how man’s existence affects those relations. Mitch Brenner is the handsome, strong & educated, and likable Everyman who plays Schoolyard Senior and Flirt and Interested Lover and Committed Lover and Hero to Melanie, Friend and Neighbor and Ex-Lover to Annie, Father and Big Brother to Cathy, and most importantly, Son to Lydia. All actions in THE BIRDS revolve around Mitch, but the women are the actors, creating those actions.

I think Hitchcock was playing it up as a showman when he said in interviews that THE BIRDS is about how life can surprise you with a deathly surprise out of nowhere; yet at the same time I think that’s so. I think THE BIRDS is about life as a woman in a man’s world. That life is filled with Other Women and Men; life is surprising and can be fun and secure and then, suddenly, confusing and bewildering, and then, just as suddenly, desperate and terrifying and without explanation. The women are divided, even during terror, by their human feelings about the men. Ultimately however, the most unhappy and tortured of the female personalities must recognize another female personality as equally human, and as equally deserving of respect and compassion.

I love THE BIRDS passionately; if it had kept its original ending, it may have even been my favorite Hitchcock film. I read the DuMaurier story before I saw the movie, and both had a memorably eerie tone. I think the film is better, and not simply because it’s expanded (the story is a short story).

As a BS2, I think it works — although the Debate section is certainly short, and not exactly a Debate about what Melanie should do. I think the Debate moment exists (should I really drive to Bodega Bay????), but completes itself very quickly, and then rather than wrangling with decision-making, shows instead the difficulty of the effort to execute her decision (it’s a very long drive, visually dramatic and not without risk and peril, to Bodega Bay). (I think that’s totally acceptable in a Debate, especially in a case such as this, in which Melanie is “the hero” of the narrative, but not the story’s hero (Mitch is the hero)). Especially, Hunter and Hitchcock’s ideas to transform THE BIRDS into a romantic comedy that turns into terror, and to alter the POV from male to female were excellent ideas that work strongly. The decision to work as a romantic comedy first before creating a scary movie is especially interesting in relation to its beat-structure.

SET UP
At the Pet Store, Melanie Daniels meets Mitch Brenner, looking for love birds for ‘Cathy’. She’s a prankster and funster with scandal and wealth behind her; he’s the DA that last saw her in court. He thought she’d like to know what it was like to have a trick played on her for a change.

So, Melanie orders in the love birds Mitch came looking for.

She delivers them to his home.

CATALYST
A neighbor informs Melanie that Mitch is away all weekend at Bodega Bay; the love birds can’t be left in the hall.

DEBATE
Melanie leaves the sureness and certainty of San Francisco and takes the winding, dramatically inclined ocean cliff highway to drive the birds to Bodega Bay.

BREAK INTO TWO
Melanie arrives in the new world of Bodega Bay, but has no idea yet just how new and just how transformative this world will be.

It’s a small town and easy to look up Mitch Brenner in.

B-STORY
Melanie meets Mitch’s old flame, popular actress Suzanne Pleshette, who is known in the town as “Annie”
She is the Half-Man who has never been bothered by a bird before, but who has had her life with Mitch Brenner, and her life unto herself, changed forever by her prior encounters with frost-hearted and inhuman Lydia Brenner.

FUN & GAMES
Melanie rents a motorboat to deliver the birds; successfully hiding them in the Brenner home, Melanie rushes back across the bay. Mitch’s car chases her – to thank her for the birds.

Curiously, Melanie is ATTACKED BY A SEAGULL before she can moor.

Melanie meets LYDIA BRENNER. Lydia and Melanie’s difficult strained relationship is a vital part of the story and the strain between them comes through clearly here.

We discover that the chickens won’t eat…

Melanie gets a room with Annie, and we discover more about Mitch and his overly protective and jealous mother, Lydia.

Mitch and Melanie make contact; Mitch sees Melanie as a real person. Their romance is beginning.

Then, Cathy’s birthday party is attacked by BIRDS for screaming terror

Later, inside at evening, Melanie notices a BIRD on the fireplace — the chimney is open! The room is swarmed by BIRDS, and the humans escape. EVEN INSIDE THE SAFE HEARTH OF HOME, WITH MAN AT THEIR SIDE, THERE IS NO SAFETY FROM THE UNPREDICTABILITY OF THE BIRDS.

MIDPOINT
Lydia discovers Dan Fawcett at the Fawcett Farm.

Everything is different now, ESPECIALLY FOR LYDIA. The shock of Death has come to her; the silent cuts that ‘push’ into Dan Fawcett’s pecked, eaten face is a deathly wake-up call from the Grim Reaper to Lydia to reassess and re-evaluate. DEATH CHANGES US ALL, and this horrible death of a man Lydia seems to trust and like, and the naked, exposed horror of the manner of discovery of death, pushes Lydia to the Edge. She will never be the same again after this moment, and neither will the movie. Probably, this is the movie’s most obvious Moment of Grace, and it does come right at what I think is the Midpoint. Lydia’s heart is false, closed, hurt and hurting. This compelling brush with death (and Melanie’s subsequent kind, rather than competitive, reaction (to help fetch Cathy)) will transform Lydia. Lydia is a prototype of Darth Vader: one is never too bitter or too closed off to discover Goodness again.

BAD GUYS CLOSE IN
Melanie goes to collect Cathy at the school; Lydia is petrified thinking about the large schoolhouse windows, and how easily the birds got into Dan Fawcett’s bedroom. But, THE BIRDS ATTACK.

The burg’s Most Oblivious Resident, a bird enthusiast (and a woman), mocks Melanie’s story about the birds attacking.

The birds attack and blow up a gas station! The limits to the terror now reveal themselves to be far wider and more flexible than the horrifying Dan Fawcett midpoint hinted.

ALL IS LOST
At the restaurant, Melanie is accused of bringing the Evil of the birds upon Bodega Bay.

Cathy is missing; she is at ANNIE’s, and…

DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL
ANNIE IS DEAD, killed by the birds while saving Cathy. WHIFF OF DEATH, stronger than Dan Fawcett’s — Annie is a friend, and she gave her life to save Cathy.

BREAK INTO THREE, and Three is the FINALE
Melanie and the Brenner’s prepare the house for defense against the birds, boarding up windows and chimney routes in, and then waiting, waiting, waiting.
***Gathering The Team*** Making amends, gathering tools, strapping on guns, It’s Impossible! Relations must be good, house must be prepared, it doesn’t feel possible

It starts; it is dangerous but the house holds and they are safe.
***Storming The Castle*** It’s going great, we lose people (“people” here being the integrity of the perimeter)

Later, Melanie goes upstairs after hearing a noise.

She enters a room.

An Owl is inside.
Melanie sees that the birds have opened up the ceiling/roof to open air. The room is full of birds.

Melanie is attacked by the birds and pinned against the door; she can’t escape and is pecked at and upon, shielding her eyes, until she slumps, defeated.
***High Tower Surprise*** No Princess, The perimeter did NOT hold, Stopped Melanie can’t open the door, Arrested The birds surround her, Time Clock She can’t survive this ordeal forever, We Lost Melanie slumps to her knees, No Human Can Help Mitch discovers Melanie’s presence but cannot breach the door

Mitch breaks into the room and saves Melanie.

But Melanie can’t live without medical attention. Lydia recognizes this fact and FEELS PITY AND SYMPATHY AND HUMANITY TOWARDS MELANIE.

They must depart for San Francisco.

Stealthy, sure-footed, silent and steady, alert, frightened, and working together, Mitch and Lydia and Cathy and Melanie walk to Melanie’s canvas-topped car, among a yard of birds. MELANIE BALKS but must go.
***Dig Down Deep*** Melanie must walk the yard to her car

Lydia, who has suffered the most as a woman in a man’s world, forgives Melanie and comforts her tenderly and maternally. This young precocious naive Woman who has turned everything upside down has reached and awakened the Human Woman inside Lydia, and revived feelings of warmth and compassion rather than jealousy and bitterness towards a fellow Woman.

FINAL IMAGE
Mitch pilots Melanie’s car through the yard and out the lane, surrounded by thousands of waiting birds. The birds are not yet ready for a new attack. THE END
***Execution of New Plan*** On the fly They have no plan when they leave, other than to survive as long as possible