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Alfred Hitchcock: The Shape of Suspense

Thursday, April 11, 2013
7:00 p.m. The Birds
Alfred Hitchcock (U.S., 1963)



The Birds displays some of Hitchcock’s most sophisticated technical achievements in the creation of sheer, seemingly inexplicable tension. There is so much inaction, so much silence, so much Nothing in The Birds—and, after all, its monsters are just birds—it seems Hitchcock is rummaging about in the most excruciating realms of personal terror. Donald Spoto wrote, “Hitchcock’s use of birds as a marker for chaos (a tradition drawn from classical and Renaissance art) . . . crucial for an appreciation of Psycho . . . is ultimately realized in The Birds, where the sudden rush of wings expresses and makes explicit jealousy, anger, and sexual and family tensions. . . . Structured around an alternating series of conversations about being abandoned and the violent, inexplicable bird attacks that represent and actualize that terror, the film is a darkly lyrical puzzle-poem about human need, the nature of the universe, and the possibility of salvation.” 


• Written by Evan Hunter, based on a short story by Daphne Du Maurier. Photographed by Robert Burks. With Tippi Hedren, Rod Taylor, Jessica Tandy, Suzanne Pleshette. (119 mins, Color, 35mm, From Universal)