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Opening Arguments

Think you're getting closure? Freud not

I love the Web. It was just Monday, in a post on the death of novelist Evan Hunter, when I wrote this:

On the down side, he is said to have helped Alfred Hitchcock with the screenplay for "The Birds," the master-of-suspense director's most infuriating movie. Where did the birds come from? Why did they start attacking people? Why did they stop? I need closure!

And already, a reader has pointed me this this site, which has not only extensive quotes from the dialogue and a scene-by-scene analysis, but an analysis of the film's symbolism, including this:

Initially, critics were baffled when they attempted to interpret the film on a literal level and measure it against other typical disaster/horror films of its kind. The typical Hitchcock MacGuffin is the question: Why do the strange attacks occur? But the film cannot solely be interpreted that way, because as the actors in the film discover in the long discussion scene in the Tides Restaurant, there is no solid, rational reason why the birds are attacking. They are not seeking revenge for nature's mistreatment, or foreshadowing doomsday, and they don't represent God's punishment for humankind's evil.

When this is understood, the symbolic film's complex fabric makes more sense, especially if interpreted in Freudian terms. It is about three needy women (literally 'birds') - and a fourth from a younger generation - each flocking around and vying for varying degrees of affection and attention from the sole, emotionally-cold male lead, and the fragile tensions, anxieties and unpredictable relations between them. The attacks are mysteriously related to the mother and son relationship in the film - anger (and fears of abandonment or being left lonely) of the jealous, initially hostile mother surface when her bachelor son brings home an attractive young woman. Curiously, the first attack has symbolic phallic undertones - it occurs when the man and woman approach toward each other outside the restaurant in the coastal town.

All well and good. I'm as much a fan of Freud as the next guy. ("Monsters from the Id!" is a great line from another wonderful movie. Class ...?) But this doesn't give me closure. It just explains why I'm not getting it.


Thu, 07/14/2005 - 11:31am

I always thought that the birds had had enough and weren't gonna take it anymore. Freud indeed?!?!