8. Hitchcock’s MacGuffins

Is a conceptualization of sorts of physiological and physio-sensorial pretext, over rationality itself! Or, that is, the notion of rational pretext in favor ultimately of physiological, physio-rational, invigoration…


The Birds (1963)

Certain comments made by character’s, and Hitchcock’s repetitive visual emphasis on the female human body under savage attack, lead one to question the seriousness of the actual birds at all; as if the threat of invasion of the small town and our way of life, had really something more to do with heinous criminal violence itself—in the story Cathy Brennon tells of her brother’s work as a lawyer defending a man who shot his wife in the head six times, because (we later are told) there was a ballgame on TV and his wife changed the channel; and in regards to most of his clients Cathy refers to as hoods (because, she says, that is what her brother calls them.) And the symbol of the encaged love birds which seem to perhaps represent the nature of couples versus the hostility of the world, and for whom, additionally to themselves, there is the recourse to humor—and perhaps the invigoration of serious moral outrage—but not a whole lot else in the growing social and physio-social confines of 1960s Western civilization;


That is, perhaps the bird war on man as portrayed in the film is itself a MacGauffin that allows for an indirect contemplation of the what seems to be in fact our dependence on the idea of crime and, specifically, its violence (a theme Hitchcock goes back to again and again), and that would benefit us in the physiologically sensory exhilaration the idea—and its imagery—affords us, which in some sense is the real, deeper imagery content of The Birds.


-Rod Taylor, at the height of the bird onslaught—and once that there is no option whatsoever to war—is presented wearing a dinner jacket in regards to his upper body, while waist down he is dressed in olive-drab combat fatigues, as if this image were the true revelation of civilized man and our Janus-faced ambivalence of etiquette and simultaneous violence.


-And it would seem survival is really a matter of a needed invigoration through which all the central characters seem to realize themselves in one way or another, as if the experience itself were a form of ultimate good fortune in at least its outcome, and assuming you physically survive. A sort of wholesomeness in fact between the remaining, surviving individuals is formed in the kiln, so to speak, of the ordeal.


Historically, of course, the film coincides with rising crime rate in at least the United States of that time, and compared with data from the 1940s and 50s. Although Hitchcock could be said to have based his work as director, from in fact his professional beginnings of the 1920s, on violence and society’s relationship with it, does this 1963 film really question what has changed, suddenly, about human nature, rather than psychotic starlings, seagulls or crows?


In any case, the protruding and supreme image in the viewing experience of this film–that exercises its physiologically sensory dominance over our sedentary, civilized eye, and  which prevails over our visually stimulated emotions—is the mangled and hued, human corpse of especially a woman’s. And thus, explicit in this film is what was only suggested in Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Stranger’s on a Train (1951), Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958)—all films in which the only implied elliptical idea of a woman being strangled then supports the plot of each respective film. But unlike Psycho (1960) which is, of course, also famously explicit, The Birds seems to create something of a cover argument in the actual birds themselves fronting, so to speak, the real source of terror that drives human beings, it would seem, to bigger versions of their own person, just as the characters here end up psychologically going beyond and overcoming themselves through the turmoil depicted; and perhaps even as something of a political statement, it seems the director is suggesting that this dilemma—that of greater growth in some sense as human beings through hardship, strife and turmoil—is a conundrum of a consumer society, only somewhat more manageable, of course, because of film itself, no doubt!




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