‘It’s the End of the World!’: The Paradox of Event and Body in Hitchcock’s The Birds

Bruno Lessard

Abstract


This article examines the concept of ‘event’ and the manner in which it has been neglected in both ecocriticism and Hitchcock studies. Using The Birds (1963) to rethink the premises of ecocritics’ discussion of nature, animals, and disasters in cinema and Hitchcock scholars’ emphasis on representation and symbolism, the article argues that it has become imperative to philosophically foreground ‘events’ in light of the numerous contemporary films that revolve around them. Hitchcock’s film is shown to propose a renewed concept of event, a concept that significantly departs from the two most influential conceptualisations of the event in post-1960 continental philosophy: those of Gilles Deleuze and Alain Badiou. Eschewing philosophical theories that equate the event with pure becoming or conceptualisations that characterise events as rupture and break, the film reveals a particular form of bird-event that posits relationality to address becoming and rupture simultaneously.

Indeed, what distinguishes Hitchcock’s concept of event, contra Deleuze’s and Badiou’s, is that it emphasises relationality instead of pure continuity or radical rupture in the characterisation of corporeal or embodied individuation. Emphasising relationality helps understand the film’s deployment of a concept of event that departs from the aforementioned theorisations that exclude the human body (and therefore affect) from the event’s experiential import. Closely aligning bodies prior to and after the bird-events, The Birds ultimately discloses the paradox of body and event at the heart of contemporary event theory by way of linking or relating bodies and events, thus tapping into debates over embodiment and affect in cultural and media theory. Centering around modalities of evental experience rather than the controversial and endlessly debatable signification of the bird attacks, the analysis purports that the bird-event configures materiality only to reveal its relational and interstitial volatility.


Keywords


Ecocriticism; Event; Hitchcock; The Birds; Deleuze; Badiou

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Film-Philosophy | ISSN 1466-4615