Anatomy of Hitchcock’s “The Birds” Playground Scene


Susana Martinez

Suspense at Its Finest

Alfred Hitchcock, director of The Birds and master of suspense, delivered a scene full of anticipation that went beyond the viewer’s expectations. The key scene was the playground scene set at the Bodega Bay school which is where oblivious Melanie went to pick up her friend’s daughter. News of attacking birds was flying around town and Melanie was designated to bring the daughter to safety. The scene begins with the composition shot of the jungle gym as the focal point and Melanie on the bench off to the side of the frame. This ignites anticipation in the audience, making them eager to learn what is about to occur behind Melanie. Underscoring the entire scene, the singing children creates the element of dissonance. The children’s singing, high-pitched, off-key, and out of sync, created a repetitive tone to the scene and influenced the audience into an anxious state of mind. The final part of the scene demonstrates a perturbed Melanie sitting on the bench with folded arms and crinkled eyebrows. As her frustration grows with the voices of the singing children, she lights up a cigarette as a distraction while impatiently looking over her shoulder. The viewer sees the first bird fly up to the jungle gym behind her and then sees a few more birds join the first, all while Melanie is completely unaware. Melanie finally notices what the viewer thinks they knew all along. She spots a bird flying from left to right which leads her eyes to the jungle gym behind her. The dramatic irony settles in when the viewer thinks they know how many birds flew up to the jungle gym, but, of course, the master of suspense hits the audience with a jumpscare when Melanie turns around to see a massive flock of crows right behind her. This jumpscare fooled the audience as well and took a toll on their expectations.

Work Cited

Movieclips.”Crows on the Playground – The Birds (5/11) Movie CLIP(1963) HD.” Online video clip.YouTube, 27 May 2011. Web. Accessed 11 April 2019.