Something Hitchcockian happened to me yesterday. Before I explain, I’d like to know, for quantitative research purposes, if anything Hitchockian has ever happened to you?
Have you ever, for instance, made a tongue-in-cheek pact with someone on a train about murdering each other’s spouses and then found out he wasn’t joking?
OR: Has your head ever detached from your body, taken on a strange green pallor and emitted rays in a purple vortex of vertiginous light?
OR: Have you ever fallen in love with a woman only to discover she’s an actress hired by someone else to 1) impersonate his wife (whom he murdered) and 2) fake her death by “jumping” from a mission tower so he could switch out the body of his actual wife for his fake “hired” wife whom you’re in love with???
So…The Birds. 1963. Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) is terrorized by legions of vicious birds in Bodega Bay. Film critic David Thomson called it Hitchcock’s “last unflawed film.”
What happened to me yesterday at the Bosque del Apache, a bird sanctuary outside of Socorro, was really pretty similar to this seminal film about evil, psychosexual paranoia and loss of control over the natural world. I would like to take a moment here to compare and contrast the film with my experience.
First, some backstory: Every winter the Bosque del Apache’s marshy lakes are deluged with migratory snow geese, sandhill cranes, bald eagles, etc., attracting birders from all over the U.S. Dave and I decided to drive down and give it a once over.
Note: All text in quotes are taken from Wikipedia’s entry on The Birds.
What Was the Same
1) There were lots of birds
Some of those birds attacked me.
In The Birds, “An amateur ornithologist dismisses the reports of attacks as fanciful and argues about it with Melanie.”
Dave dismissed my reports of attacks as fanciful and argued about it with me.
In The Birds, “Melanie drives there and waits for class to end, initially unaware that a huge number of crows are massing nearby.”
We also drove there (to the Bosque). We weren’t waiting for class to end, but I was initially unaware that a huge number of snow geese were amassing nearby.
“The film concludes ambiguously, as the car carrying Melanie, the Brenners and the lovebirds slowly makes its way through a landscape where tens of thousands of birds are perched.”
Our trip also concluded ambiguously, pretty much the exact same way! (Except without all of those extra people in the car).
What Was Different
“At Cathy’s birthday party the next day, the children are set upon by seagulls.”
That didn’t happen.
I didn’t really build any new meaningful relationships to speak of.
A drunk believes the attacks are a sign of the Apocalypse, and a traveling salesman suggests exterminating them all.
Dave and I didn’t drink a thing on the trip and you aren’t allowed to shoot birds at the sanctuary, no matter what they do to you.
So, I fully admit that there are some significant discrepancies between the plot summary for The Birds and our own little outing to the bird sanctuary.
Another difference is–Dave was right– I wasn’t really attacked by birds as much as I let on.
In The Birds, Hitchcock neglected to include a shot of a lone sandhill crane.
I think this was a bad move.
In The Birds Tippi Hedren never took time out to “bird watch” the birds that were attacking her.
In The Birds, Tippi looks pretty fantastic while under attack.
I could probably have looked a little better with some effort.
So that was my HItchcockian event.
(Incidentally, I saw Tippi Hedren speak live before a showing of Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie at the Kimo Theater in Albuquerque. You’re probably all aware of Hitchcock’s obsessive infatuation with Hedren on the set of The Birds and Marnie. When she smacked down his advances, he ruined her career.
Hitchcock is still one of my favorite directors, but he had his moments of douchebaggery.)