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Color Symbolism in Hitchcock's The Birds
• Mar 10, 2011
• Nancy Young
Alfred Hitchcock, who controlled all aspects of his frame, deftly employed color symbolism in The Birds to convey jealousy,fear and passion.
“[Y]es, he controls his films. They were his films. They were out of his imagination, and the way they were styled and how we appeared in them, and the men as well, were part of thefull impact that he wanted--the statement that he wanted to make in that film. He was a brilliant technician.” Decades after she appeared in The Birds, Suzanne Pleshette in a panel interviewexplained how the Master of Suspense earned his title (Garrett 84).
Influenced early on by German Expressionism, Alfred Hitchcock mastered how to relay emotional states visually. Once he added color to hisfilms, their sets and costumes reflected the emotional states of the characters.
In The Birds, jealousy, fear, love and violence color the action. Green, yellow and red reinforce those emotions in themise en scène.
Jealousy
Tippi Hedren represents what Hitchcock, in an interview, called the “ladylike blonde with a touch of elegance, whose sex must be discovered” (“Elegance” 96). Hitchcock wasboth drawn to and cowed by cool blondes. Film critic Donald Spoto cites production designer Robert Boyle’s opinion: “I suspect he had a certain fear of elegant blondes” (175).
Hitch’s attention toHedren’s grooming signaled his growing possessiveness of her: he even “altered the line and cut” of Hedren’s costume to suit the actress (Spoto 171). Rod Taylor stated that “Hitch was becoming verydomineering and covetous of Tippi” during production. According to Hedren herself, “He was developing this obsession for me, and I began to feel very uncomfortable because I had no control over him” (qtd.in Spoto 172-173).
Hitchcock and the Color of Jealousy
Jealousy and possessiveness dominate the world of the film, as well. The women in The Birds all want something they can’t have. Melanie...
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