According to Bordwell and Thompson, Classical Hollywood Cinema has a definitive style, which cannot be understood by the average spectator. It refers to the traditional filmmaking style that was established between 1920s and 1930s in Hollywood. The style was very much dominant in the western world among all the other styles that were adopted during that period. The plots in the movie maintain linearity all throughout the movie because of the editing style is continuous in nature and the action is based on the characters (Lay 2014).
The features of this style of narrative are that it follows a three-act narrative structure that includes orientation, complication and resolution. The situation is presented and a disruption in the scenes is introduced where it is seen that the entire movie is based on solving the disruption. Another feature of this style is that it includes objective storytelling, which means that the audiences have a better knowledge than the characters in the films. In this way, it allows time for parallel editing as well. One of the main features is that the movies of this genre are mainly concerned with the individual characters, which is very different from the montage style that is present in Soviet Union filmmaking (Fabe 2014). The films of this genre have a strong character build up who tries to fulfill their goals and objectives that is being shown in the movie. The characters follow a hierarchical pattern where the protagonists come first followed by the antagonists and the minor characters after them. Mise-en-scene is another property where the main function is to produce realism in these films (Dunn 2016).
Spatial time is another feature of this genre where the movement of the film is through time and maintains a straightforward flow of events episodically. According to Bordwell and Thompson, the movement through time and space has to be in action subordinately. The editing style is continuous in nature, where the changes in the shots are invisible in the eyes of the audience (Martin 2014). It means that it tend to hide the discontinuities that the viewer may claim as non-real. The progressions of the shots in this genre are basically elongated long shots (ELS), long shots (LS), mid-shots (MS) and close ups (CU). There are even point of view (POV) shots along with t he application of 180-degree camera rule. The use of three-point lighting and music helps in reinforcing the meaning in the films (Padilla 2016).
With more than forty films under his credit, Alfred Hitchcock directed the movie The Birds (1963). This movie is considered to be one of his greatest films and one of his finest. The director made a transformation of the ignored creatures into a fearful and a destructive power by using the tricks that he had up in his sleeves. The narration through the camera in this film is to show the impact of birds when the characters in the movie are in intense conversation. The birds from the beginning dominate the entire movie where it can be seen that the establishing frame has a shot of the birds swooping down on the protagonist as the person is approaching the pet store. While being en route to the shop there is a whistle with a sound of birdcall when the camera pauses for a moment (Haeffner 2015). This makes the protagonist shift her vision towards the sky where it can be seen that the entire space is filled with birds in flight. When the actor is seen entering the pet store, another place, which is again surrounded by birds and the chirping madness is seen as a growing threat. The presence of the actor in the store signifies that she wants the possession of a rare bird, as all the birds are caged around her again signifies that they are under control of the humans. The climax of the movie shows that the protagonist is entirely caged under the birds that are attacking her (Bass 2015).
In one of the scenes, it can be seen that the director uses the camera in a climbing frame, which shows that the birds are inescapable. It can be seen that the actress is on the playground where the jungle gym is on the backdrop. It is seen that the actor is petitely dressed and the ominous birds flock the background perched on the jungle gym. The birds in the movie are portrayed from an aerial point of view. This makes it look like the eyes of God, which drives the intensity of avian attacks (Brown 2014).
The director of the movie follows the classical narrative approach very keenly as it plays with the mind of the audience. This is one of the important strategies of this genre where the screenplay is changed in a timely interval so that the audience cannot guess the climax. It considers that the viewer is affected from each of the scenes of the film. The characters in the film try to tease the viewer so that they keep the audiences desperate in wanting more. The director uses the darkened theatre in a way so that it helps in attracting the attention of the audience (Driscoll 2014).
The director also uses the theory of proximity, which has helped him in planning the scenes of the movie. These helped in controlling the intensity and relaxation of the audience accordingly such as instead of relying on the instruments for music, the director uses the audience.
The use of the camera has been done in an efficient manner, which allows the audience to be involved while the film tries to unearth the story that it is revolving around. He uses a lots of panning shots along with close-ups of the objects, which helps in explaining the elements that are present in the plot. After the era of silent film, when talkies were introduced, it was seen that the talking of the actors were centrally based and the art of visual storytelling was almost sent out of the picture. This made the use of camera more than just a way of using the camera, as it helped in depicting many things that were present in the film (McEntee 2014).
According to Perry and Sederholm (2014), the use of montage in the movie helps in giving complete control over the mind of the audience. The impression that depicts strong violence are done by quick editing and when something important is happening in a particular scene, it is shown in close up so that the audience can relate the matter with themselves. The story has to be kept simple, as the audience does not want to memorize the entire movie or to identify the suspense beforehand. The director in the movie tries to keep it simple with the linear stories, which will help in making it easy for the audiences to follow the narrative. The story is not abstract in nature as it will make the audience bored and that is the reason why the use of spies and assassinations are a part of his movies.
According to Pheasant-Kelly (2014), the narrative form that is followed in the scene is that the director has tried to setup the scene by establishing the protagonist in the first instance. This has been followed by the induction of the birds in the background, which is the dominating character in the entire movie. This has led to the introduction of the main conflict in the movie that is the protagonist with the antagonist. The development of the entire act is the next step where the director has created a sense of urgency by creating obstacles, which the actor has to cross through to complete his journey. After the completion of the resolution, the movie then moves towards the necessary climax point. This cause and effect relationship helps in propelling the main characters in the movie. This effect helps in involving the actions that acts as a force for the characters in introducing a new action in the scene. The resolution is the final element in the scene, where it helps in establishing the dramatic confrontation, which is derived from the main conflict.
According to Padilla (2016), from the point of view of the audience, it can be seen that the director has maintained all the aspects that will make the movie pass as a classical narrative form. The director with respect to the angles and the camera movements has maintained the history that the Hollywood movies at that period were following. The main signature of the director is to make the plot as suspicious as possible, which helps in playing with the minds of the audience. This has left the audiences intrigued in the process and wanting to know more as to what will happen in the scenes in the later period. In this way, the director has tried to play with the minds of audiences, which was very much prevalent in that period. This cult helped the next generation in producing movies that were based on new narrative that was slowly developing for Hollywood to sustain in the future.
Bass, T.W., 2015. Alfred Hitchcock: The Master of Adaptation (Doctoral dissertation, Brunel University London).
Brown, N., 2014. Alfred Hitchcock’s Missing Children: Genre, Auteurship, and Audience Address. Children in the Films of Alfred Hitchcock, p.11.
Driscoll, P.A., 2014. “The Hitchcock Touch”: Visual Techniques in the Work of Alfred Hitchcock. International ResearchScape Journal, 1(1), p.4.
Dunn, J.T., 2016. The Representation of Disability in the Music of Alfred Hitchcock Films (Doctoral dissertation, The University of North Texas).
Fabe, M., 2014. Closely watched films: an introduction to the art of narrative film technique. Univ of California Press.
Haeffner, N., 2015. Alfred Hitchcock. Routledge.
Lay, S., 2014. In many Alfred Hitchcock films, children’s primary significance resides in their relation to adults, and often, when children are accorded a measure of importance, it is when they are examined through a psychological lens. The Birds (1963) is no exception, as 11-year-old Cathy Brenner is usually discussed in relation to the. Children in the Films of Alfred Hitchcock, p.175.
Martin, C., 2014. “It’s the End of the World!”: The Influence of The Birds on the Evil Child Film. In Children in the Films of Alfred Hitchcock (pp. 193-217). Palgrave Macmillan US.
McEntee, J.T., 2014. “The Future’s Not Ours to See”: How Children and Young Adults Reflect the Anxiety of Lost Innocence in Alfred Hitchcock’s American Movies. In Children in the Films of Alfred Hitchcock (pp. 31-46). Palgrave Macmillan US.
Padilla, M.W., 2016. Classical Myth in Four Films of Alfred Hitchcock. Lexington Books.
Perry, D.R. and Sederholm, C.H., 2014. Dark Adaptations. Hitchcock and Adaptation: On the Page and Screen, p.245.
Pheasant-Kelly, F., 2014. Between Knowingness and Innocence: Child Ciphers in Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie (1964) and The Birds (1963). Children in the Films of Alfred Hitchcock, p.161.
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