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Film Studies 101
Feature
The Birds At 50: 9 Moments Of Visual Genius
Empire pays tribute to Hitch's ornithological horror

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The Ceiling

The Ceiling

After a prolonged but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to peck their way into the Brenners' house again, the birds apparently give up. Their screeching and squawking dies down, and all becomes calm. Hitchcock contrasts the frantic style of the preceding siege with three beautiful, low angle shots which each begins with an oppressive ceiling (the protagonists are frequently trapped in their own 'cages': a car, a phone booth, a house). Into each shot step the characters: Mitch from the right, Melanie from the left and Lydia from the centre. The camera tracks back from Lydia's close up to reveal all three, plus Cathy, in a carefully staged and lit tableau. The attack is over. OR IS IT? (Spoiler: it's not)

Trivia titbit: Knowing he'd be adding the bird sound effects later, Hitchcock had a musician play an increasingly frantic drum roll off camera to help his actors feel the mounting tension of the scene.

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1 Fawcett Farm Location
The Fawcett Farm is located maybe a mile or so northwest of the hamlet of Valley Ford on California State Highway1, just west of the intersection of Highway 1 with the Valley Ford-Freestone Road. It is easy to spot on Google Earth. My in-laws have a sheep and cattle ranch to the south of Valley Ford. Roads near Valley Ford were used in the filming of Bandits (2001). South of Valley Ford is Tomales, where the Presbyterian Church was the location for the church and cemetery scenes in Village of the Damned (1995). More

Posted by futhark on Saturday July 6, 2013, 05:06

2
Thank you very much for a really interesting feature. I reckon it must have been 20 years ago when I first saw the film (the first time I'd seen a Hitchcock), lured by the promise of many visual effects shot. I'd never really appreciated what wonderful things could be done with suspense until I'd seen the climbing frame scene. That ending is frustrating to watch aged 12 if you've only ever seen films with tied-up endings. Six years later, coming back from the Emmerich version of Godzilla, we just caught the tail-end of The Birds on TV, and again the sound effects when the three actors were just looking up at the ceiling was so much more effective than anything in that Emmerich film More

Posted by Schnorbitz on Friday March 29, 2013, 17:22


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