by Daphne du Maurier
Monday, August 3 at 20:00 hrs in MERLIN
THE BIRDS featuring Bryan Groenjes & Florian Eisentraut
“The smaller birds were at the window now. He recognized the light tap-tapping of their beaks and the soft brush of their wings. The hawks ignored the windows. They concentrated their attack upon the door. Nat listened to the tearing sound of splintering wood and wondered how many million years of memory were stored in those little brains, behind the stabbing beaks, the piercing eyes, now was giving them this instinct to destroy mankind with all the deft precision of machines.” – Daphne du Maurier; THE BIRDS
Author Daphne du Maurier is best known as a “romantic novelist” – although she was never very happy with the term. Perhaps to prove that she was capable of other genres, she wrote what is considered one of the most thrilling and menacing stories of 20th century fiction – THE BIRDS. This scary tale doesn’t involve ghosts or other elements of the supernatural. Quite the contrary; what could be more unnerving than nature behaving unnaturally!? It is the irrational threat of havoc and apocalypse, from something as seemingly harmless, familiar and unsuspecting as everyday hedgerow birds, that chills the spine and unnerves so deeply.
First published in 1952, THE BIRDS is a claustrophobic horror story by the British writer Daphne du Maurier that seems to anticipate an imminent global environmental catastrophe, not unlike what we are currently experiencing. In the context of the Corona virus pandemic and the increasingly alarming threats of Global Climate Warming, the existential dread depicted in the story remains highly relevant today. The indeterminacy of the cause of the birds’ aggression contributes to the story’s disturbing potency and the author offers no scientific explanation; perhaps we are merely experiencing a cosmic punishment for humanity’s sins…
Du Maurier’s work was consistently interested in nature and landscape, but here she moves away from the aesthetic to the political and environmental in a story about what happens when the local bird population, in a bucolic rural seaside town, threatens its small community. Playing on the idea that even at home we’re not safe, Du Maurier explored environmental catastrophe in her work long before others did. The birds’ behavior represents the perils of climate change – “It was unnatural… the change was something connected with the Arctic Circle.”
Filmmakers have always been drawn to Daphne Du Maurier’s stories she provides the perfect blend of moral complexity, swashbuckling romance, Gothic psychodrama, crime and sexual intrigue. To date, her many novels, stories and plays have spawned a least 12 film adaptations and more than 40 television dramatizations. Director Alfred Hitchcock was a great admirer of Du Maurier and he is the reason most people are familiar with her writing today. He directed Jamaica Inn, Rebecca, and in 1963 – a most memorable adaptation of THE BIRDS.
Neil Jordan, the Irish film director, screenwriter, novelist and short story authors shares his thoughts on the current situation regarding Covid-19 and Daphne du Maurier’s apocalyptic short story THE BIRDS –
“The only piece of fiction that comes anything close to matching the atmosphere of what we’re going through is, oddly enough, a story that has nothing to do with viral infections; Daphne Du Maurier’s THE BIRDS. It is the story of one isolated family and a mysterious eruption in the natural world that might have to be endured and their gradual realization that something in nature has turned against mankind.