The Story (continued)
The Birds (1963)
As she travels along, smiling smugly and watching his car take the circuitous route around, he beats her to the dock and waits there, resting non-chalantly for her arrival and their reunion. [ATTACK # 1] Suddenly, as she tilts her head to the side (as she did in the elevator) in a bird-like pose, a gull "deliberately" and abruptly sweeps down from the cloudy sky and viciously pecks her in the forehead, upsetting her affected pose, and messing up her hairdo. The right index finger of her gloved hand is spotted with blood from the ripped-open gash. Reacting immediately, he climbs down to assist the stunned, shaken woman, as she shuts off the engine and drifts into the jetty. As they walk to the nearby Tides Restaurant, a trickle of blood runs down the side of her forehead.
When they enter the cafe/bar, the locals check out the couple. When Mitch seats her, she is positioned - not coincidentally - directly under a yellow sign that reads: PACKAGED GOODS SOLD HERE. The owner Deke Carter (Lonny Chapman) and his wife Helen (Elizabeth Wilson) provide cotton and antiseptic (peroxide) to cleanse the wound. Although the owner is fearful of being sued, the expert lawyer assures him: "I don't think Miss Daniels is going to sue anybody." Melanie upturns her head as he treats her in a booth [the camera angle uneasily tilts a shelf of bar bottles in the background], commending him for his occupation and tendency to imprison offenders in jail cages:
Melanie: So you're a lawyer.
Mitch: That's right. Of course I usually defend people, Miss Daniels, but if I were prosecuting...
Melanie: Do you practice here?
Mitch: (No) San Francisco....
Melanie: What kind of law?
Melanie: (playfully and teasingly) Is that why you want to see everyone behind bars?
Mitch: Oh, not everyone, Miss Daniels.
Melanie: Only violators and practical jokers.
To avoid appearing too forward or interested, Melanie claims that she came up to Bodega Bay "anyway," to visit and stay with her friend Annie Hayworth - a bold lie that is extremely transparent to his astute reasoning. She is internally conflicted about her emotional feelings for him:
Mitch: Well, small world...How do you know Annie?
Melanie: We went to school together - college...
Mitch: So you came up to see Annie, huh?
Mitch: I think you came up to see me.
Melanie: Now why would I want to see you of all people?
Mitch: I don't know. You must have gone to a lot of trouble to find out who I was and where I lived.
Melanie: No, it was no trouble at all. I simply called my father's newspaper. Besides, I was coming up anyway. I've already told you that.
Mitch: You really like me, huh?
Melanie: I loathe you. You have no manners, you're arrogant, and conceited, and I wrote you a letter about it, in fact. I tore it up.
Behind Mitch, his widowed mother Lydia (Jessica Tandy) [an elderly version of Melanie with a similar French-twist hairdo, although greyed] enters the cafe door, positioning herself between her son and his new friend. She learns that Mitch had to "acknowledge a...delivery...Miss Daniels brought us some birds from San Francisco...for Cathy for her birthday." To both Melanie's and his mother's surprise, Mitch explains that Melanie (who hasn't been invited yet) is expected for dinner. Clearly disapproving, Mrs. Brenner is concerned that love-birds are the reason that her son has become associated with a new female acquaintance:
Lydia: You did say birds.
Mitch: Yes, lovebirds.
Lydia: Oh, I see. [Almost the same words Annie used in her reaction to the lovebirds.]
Later at Annie's front door, Melanie convinces Annie to rent her a room for just one evening, holding up a "utilitarian" brown paper bag with things she picked up for the night at the general store, and hinting that things are developing positively with Mitch:
Melanie: I hadn't planned on staying very long.
Annie: (wryly) Yes, I know. Did something unexpected come up?
As Annie gestures for Melanie [a 'migrating' bird?] to enter her domicile, more birds gather and fly across the sky, prompting an exasperated Annie to ironically note:
Don't they ever stop migrating?
Melanie drives to the Brenner's home for dinner, and vainly looks at her small mirror to wipe excess lipstick from the corners of her mouth. Bird sounds are again heard. At the side of the home as the family walks in from the barn, young Cathy (Veronica Cartwright) rushes up to "Miss Daniels" and gratefully hugs her for the new lovebirds in her life [thankful that she now has a loving, surrogate couple that she can care for]: "Oh, they're beautiful. They're just what I wanted. Is there a man and a woman? I can't tell which is which." Lydia listens attentively as Melanie answers: "Well, I suppose so." According to Mitch, "something seems to be wrong with...the chickens (they) won't eat" - Lydia disagrees with his worried assessment.
In the living room, Lydia remains in the foreground as she phones the chicken feed salesman and complains about the "no-good" quality of the feed that the chickens won't eat. Melanie remains in the background and is attended to by Mitch. During the domineering, loud phone conversation, the only words deciphered from Melanie toward Mitch are from her question: "Is that your father?" (She has been standing and staring at his framed painting on the wall.) [The question is extremely significant, since it is later learned that all of Mitch's relationships have been poisoned by his domineering mother Lydia, especially after the death of his father.] After Mitch serves drinks, Lydia is centered between him and Melanie. She comes to a realization of what has happened with the words, "Oh, I see," when told that her chickens may indeed be sick, since other chickens in town "won't eat either." She asks Mitch: "You don't think they're getting sick, do you Mitch?"
After dinner, Mitch and his mother attend to domestic duties like a husband-and-wife in the background, as Melanie plays a Debussy piano piece with Cathy nearby in the foreground, who derisively refers to the violent "hoods" in cells that her brother defends in the city:
Cathy: Mitch knows a lot of people in San Francisco. Of course, they're mostly hoods.
Lydia (rebuking): Cathy!
Cathy: Well, Mom, he's the first to admit it. He spends half his day in the detention cells at the Hall of Justice.
Lydia: In a democracy, Cathy, everyone is entitled to a fair trial. Your brother's practice...
Cathy: Oh, Mom! Please! I know all that democracy jazz. They're still hoods.
Cathy pleads with Melanie and is upset that she cannot attend her "surprise" birthday party the next day - feeling unloved and lacking a "female" or maternal figure in her life:
Cathy: Are you coming to my party tomorrow?
Melanie: I don't think so. I have to get back to San Francisco.
Cathy: Don't you like us?
Mitch is dependent upon his mother in Bodega Bay: "Mitch likes it very much. He comes up every weekend, you know, even though he has his own apartment in the city. He says San Francisco is like an anthill at the foot of a bridge." Their close relationship is revealed in the kitchen as they clean up, and Mitch lovingly calls his old-fashioned, protective mother "dear" and "darling," even though she cattily speaks about Melanie's notorious reputation. His mother recollects that the "charming...certainly pretty...very rich," jet-setting socialite's name often appears in the newspaper columns, including one scandalous report about her cavorting naked (as a jaybird?) into a fountain (birdbath?) in Rome the previous summer:
Lydia: Of course it's none of my business, but when you bring a girl like that...
Mitch: I think I can handle Melanie Daniels by myself.
Lydia: Well, as long as you know what you want, Mitch. (He kisses her)
Mitch: I know exactly what I want.
The film dissolves from a pensive look on Lydia's neurotic face concerned about the interference Melanie will provide, to a shot of the couple walking toward Melanie's car as she leaves. From a high, slightly overhead camera angle, Mitch physically dominates the frame, looking down on Melanie in her car and inquisitively and aggressively questioning her (as if she were a defendant in a courtroom's witness chair) about the Rome fountain incident - his mother's information intrudes upon their flirtatious, defensive, friction-filled conversation (and so do bird noises):
Mitch: Will I be seeing you again?
Melanie: (coyly) San Francisco's a long way from here.
Mitch: Oh, I'm in San Francisco five days a week with a lot of time on my hands. I'd like to see you. Maybe we could go swimming or something. Mother tells me you like to swim.
Melanie: How does mother know what I like to do?
Mitch: I guess we read the same gossip columns.
Melanie: Oh that! Rome.
Mitch: Yeah. I really like to swim. I think we might get along very well.
Melanie: In case you're interested, I was pushed into that fountain.
Mitch: Without any clothes on?
Melanie: With all my clothes on. The newspaper that ran that story happens to be a rival of my father's paper.
Mitch: You're just a poor, innocent victim of circumstances, aren't you?
Melanie: Well, I'm neither poor nor innocent, but the truth of that particular...
Mitch: The truth is, you're running around with a pretty wild crowd, isn't it?
Melanie: Oh yes, that's the truth, but I was pushed into that fountain and that's the truth too.
But Melanie does admit that she was "lying" about her association with Annie, and that she wrote him a "stupid and foolish" letter (that she subsequently tore up) that said: "I think you need these lovebirds after all. They may help your personality." Their squabbling and chatter - at continual cross-purposes, ends in rejection and sarcasm:
Melanie: I don't give a damn what you believe.
Mitch: I'd still like to see ya.
Mitch: I think it might be fun.
Melanie: Well, it might have been good enough in Rome, but it's not good enough now.
Mitch: It is for me.
Melanie: Well not for me.
Mitch: What do you want?
Melanie: I thought you knew. I want to go through life jumping into fountains naked. Good night.
Refusing his stubborn, further interest in her, she roars off into the darkness. He turns and with a perplexed look, he notices that flocks of birds are amassed on the telephone pole wires along the country road.
When Melanie arrives at Annie's home to spend the night, she finds her host wearing a robe and pajamas, and reading the newspaper while reclining on her sofa. In Annie's living room are glimpses of her appreciation of culture: art reproductions hanging on the wall, an LP record of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, and shelved books next to her desk. Noticing that Melanie appears bothered by her encounter with Mitch, Annie offers a drink of brandy. Although Melanie "despises" the town, Annie relates the history of how she came to the isolated "little hamlet" of Bodega Bay - "...a collection of shacks on a hillside. It takes a bit of getting used to."
As Melanie had suspected, Annie followed "a friend" (Mitch) there from San Francisco when their affair ended "to be near him" - filling her time, as she mentioned earlier, with "compulsive...tilling of the soil." According to Annie, there are ambiguous reasons for their breakup - possibly because of Lydia's displeasure and interference with any other women who would love her son, or because of her fear as a widow "of being abandoned" after her husband's death - or maybe due to Mitch's basic unresponsiveness. From hints during their conversation (in which she alternatively sits and stands in a restless mood), Annie hasn't recovered from losing him:
Annie: Well, you needn't worry. It's been over and done with a long time ago.
Melanie: Annie, there's nothing between Mr. Brenner and me.
Annie: Isn't there? Well, maybe there isn't. Maybe there's never been anything between Mitch and any girl.
Melanie: And what do you mean?
Annie: ...I was seeing a lot of him in San Francisco. Then one weekend, he invited me up to meet Lydia.
Melanie: When was this?
Annie: Oh, four years ago shortly after his father died. Of course, things may be different now.
Annie: With Lydia. Did she seem a trifle distant?
Melanie: A trifle.
Annie: Well then, perhaps things aren't quite so different. You know, her attitude nearly drove me crazy. When I got back to San Francisco, I spent days trying to find out exactly what I'd done to displease her.
Melanie: What had you done?
Annie: Nothing. I simply existed. So, what's the answer? Jealous woman, right? Clinging, possessive mother? Wrong! With all due respect to Oedipus, I don't think that was the case.
Melanie: Well then, what was it?
Annie: Lydia liked me. That's the strange part. Now that I'm no longer a threat, we're very good friends.
Melanie: Why did she object to you?
Annie: Because she was afraid..
Melanie: Afraid you'd take Mitch?
Annie: Afraid I'd give Mitch..
Melanie: I don't understand.
Annie: ..afraid of any woman who would give Mitch the one thing Lydia can't give him - love.
Melanie: That adds up to a jealous, possessive woman.
Annie: No, I don't think so. You see, she's not afraid of losing Mitch. She's only afraid of being abandoned.
Melanie: Someone ought to tell her she'd be gaining a daughter.
Annie: No, she already has a daughter.
Melanie: What about Mitch? Didn't he have anything to say about this?
Annie: Well, I can understand his position. He'd just been through a lot with Lydia after his father died. He didn't want to risk going through it all again...
Melanie: Oh, I see.
Annie: ...though it ended - and not right then, of course. We went back to San Francisco, saw each other now and then, but we both knew it was over.
Melanie: And what are you doing here in Bodega Bay?
Annie: I wanted to be near Mitch. Oh, it was over and done with and I knew it, but I still wanted to be near him. You see, I still like him a hell of a lot and I don't want to lose that friendship.
Furthermore, a phone call from Mitch to Melanie positions Annie in two poses: she pensively listens to their discussion in the foreground, and in a second side-view, she stares off into space while smoking a cigarette. After apologizing for his rude behavior, Mitch persuades Melanie to remain for Cathy's party. When Melanie accepts his invitation after the words "I see," Annie closes her eyes to accentuate her feelings of being lonely and abandoned:
Well I couldn't, I have to get back to San Francisco. (pause) No, I wouldn't want to disappoint Cathy, but... (pause) I see. Alright yes, I'll be there.
The two discuss her decision to remain - and possibly become more involved with Mitch in a relationship. Annie permits and encourages Melanie to attend:
Melanie: Oh, it seems so pointless!...Do you think I should go?
Annie: Well, that's up to you.
Melanie: No, it's really up to Lydia, isn't it?
Annie: Never mind Lydia. Do you want to go?
Annie: Then go.
Melanie: Thank you, Annie. (A thud sounds)