Psychoanalytic Critique of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds
In the late nineteenth century, Sigmund Freud developed the first framework for psychoanalytic theory expressing that our unconscious mind is truly responsible for our thoughts, desires, and overall emotions. His theory establishes that childhood experiences are crucial in individual development and sexual or aggressive drives shape all of our basic needs and feelings (Summers, 2006). Of course humans do not directly recognize that their underlying sexual drive would cause them to act in certain ways; this creates an artistic path for filmmakers to incorporate this theory into film. In a film anything can happen because it is created in someone’s mind and acted out by unrelated individuals. In Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, an unusual family circumstance coupled with an outsider joining a small town creates havoc when the birds of Bodega Bay turn on humanity. Sexual desires driven by the unconscious create animosity in the small community as feelings are turned into brutal, physical attacks.
An important theme in psychoanalysis is narcissism and its contribution to the plot of a film. This is a good place to introduce Melanie Daniels, a beautiful socialite who has been brought up by the wealthy and will remain wealthy, the signature narcissistic character that we cannot help but love because of their ability carry themselves and play on our emotions. A very early sign of Melanie’s narcissistic behavior is when she is so greatly offended by Mitch’s poke at fun by pretending to believe she is a salesperson in the bird shop. She cannot believe that he would even joke about her holding such a position. Melanie’s narcissism is a result of her upbringing in a wealthy family, as well as her recent travels to Europe which encourage her even more to view herself as a prominent individual in society. The film even contrasts Melanie’s pristine image with Annie’s obvious less favorable look when we first meet...
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