Alfred Hitchcock is commonly known as "the master of suspense!" - does he achieve this in the "climbing frame" scene in the film "The Birds"?

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Daniel Welton Form 10BR 12/10/03

Alfred Hitchcock is commonly known as “the master of suspense!” Does he achieve this in the “climbing frame” scene in the film “The Birds”?

 “The Birds” is a melodramatic film produced in 1963 based on the short story by Daphne du Maurier. It was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, a British-born film fanatic. Rod Taylor (Mitch) and Tippie Hedren (Melanie) star in “The Birds”, which is one of Alfred Hitchcock's abstrusely unnerving psychodramas. The action takes place in a small Californian town, known as Bodega Bay. Before long the town is attacked by marauding birds, and Hitchcock's skill at staging action is brought to the fore. What really unnerves the audience is not the birds skirmishes, but the anxiety and the eerie quiet between attacks.

Hitchcock's dominant suspense thriller sees Melanie taking fate into her own hands to hook up with a rugged fellow (Mitch) in the coastal town of Bodega Bay, after he had purchased some love birds. This film gives light to some of Hitchcock’s most unnerving images such as a seagull casually gliding into a shot aloft a blazing petrol station and when Melanie was on a playground bench, unaware of the menaces flocking to the playground climbing frame behind her. This essay will go into great detail about the ways in which the “master of suspense” creates tension and suspense in the infamous “climbing frame” scene. The climbing frame scene comes after the scene where the farmer is found with his eyes pecked out, and straight after this scene, you can find Melanie in the local hotel talking on the phone.

Birds had been used in the previous part of the film, to create tension, to cause panic to the audience and the characters in the film. The birthday scene is a perfect example of this. A group of birds started attacking some Bodega Bay locals (and Melanie) for no apparent reason. This showed the audience the killer potential that the birds possessed, and told the characters that they can expect more spontaneous attacks later on.

In the first part of this scene Melanie is seen driving to the school. This is a “normal” part which sets the scene up with reassurance that nothing will go wrong. This creates tension because we know that with birds about, trouble is not far behind. The effect of this is that the audience is left wondering what will happen. We then hear children singing. Their youthful voices create a sense of naivety and innocence in sharp contrast to the tension generated by the ever increasing number of birds outside. The effect of this is that we realize just how defenseless they are. They are wide open to a brutal attack from say, some birds.

The contrast between Annie and Melanie is exposed in this scene. Melanie is portrayed as a little bit rude. She waltzes in to the classroom without knocking which some people may view as impolite. Annie is shown as quite an old fashioned person, a fairly polite person as well because she quietly tells Melanie that it is not an appropriate time to talk. This causes Melanie to have a cigarette.

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The next section of the scene is the infamous “climbing frame” scene. This is the most important scene for close analysis. Tension is built up here through the use of symbolism. The children singing and the crows outside is an example. Inside, the children represent heaven, all which is good in this world. Outside, the crows represent evil, all that is bad in the world, miscreants that pose a threat to the whole of Bodega Bay. The symbols of blithe, childhood innocence are a stark contrast with the evil birds, these two societies being within a stones throw ...

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