‘How long he fought with them in the darkness he could not tell, but at last the beating of the wings about him lessened and then withdrew . . . ‘
A classic of alienation and horror, ‘The Birds’ was immortalised by Hitchcock in his celebrated film. The five other chilling stories in this collection echo a sense of dislocation and mock man’s sense of dominance over the natural world.
The mountain paradise of ‘Monte Verità’ promises immortality, but at a terrible price; a neglected wife haunts her husband in the form of an apple tree; a professional photographer steps out from behind the camera and into his subject’s life; a date with a cinema usherette leads to a walk in the cemetery; and a jealous father finds a remedy when three’s a crowd . . .
I know we’re not yet two weeks through May but this will be my first review of the month. I was delighted to see a tweet about Ali Hope’s Daphne du Maurier reading week as I’ve had The Birds on my TBR pile for a couple of years now and this seemed a great opportunity to read it.
The book is made up of six short stories: The Birds | Monte Verità | The Apple Tree | The Little Photographer | Kiss Me Again, Stranger | The Old Man and has an introduction from David Thomson (2004) entitled ‘Du Maurier, Hitchcock and Holding an Audience’ which explores the relationship between the two and how films often take just the essence from a book or story and is well worth reading.
I have never seen Hitchcock’s The Birds although I have watched Rebecca. In all he made five films based on works by du Maurier.
What I do is to read a story only once, and if I like the basic idea, I just forget all about the book and start to create cinema.Alfred Hitchcock
So, it is not that surprising to find that the films and the stories or books may be very different from each other. Certainly with The Birds Hitchcock removed it geographically from England to the west coast of America and wasn’t so much interested in why the birds were behaving as they were rather he wanted to ‘employ as many tricks with live birds’ as possible. It was this huge technical challenge that caught him to enable him to get across that ‘basic idea’ to the audience that of absolute dread.
It’s been a while since I’ve read any DDM books and reading The Birds reminded me of how well du Maurier writes. In just a few pages she tells of Nat and his realisation that the unusual gathering of birds was something of a concern. She describes the scenes and characters in such a way that you feel and, indeed, they are beautifully wrought scenes and well rounded characters. When they get into his children’s bedroom it’s enough to make him protect his family and home. His growing worry and fear – along with his wife’s and his daughter’s – bring that absolute feeling of dread to the reader.
It is with that word – DREAD – that brings the film and the story, the author and the filmmaker in harmony.
I have never wanted to watch the film but I am delighted that I have finally read this excellent short story.
This year it will be the week of the 10th-16th May – Daphne du Maurier’s birthday being the 13th.
I, like Ali, share the same week as DDM for my birthday so I’d just like to take this opportunity to wish Ali – indeed everyone with a birthday this week – many happy returns of the day! Despite the rather inclement weather I hope it’s an enjoyable one.
Daphne Du Maurier week is hosted by Ali over on HEAVENALI. For all the information you need regarding this week just pop over to her excellent blog. Thanks Ali for highlighting this I may have only managed a short read but it was very enjoyable.
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