This 36-page book is printed in-house and contains a detailed semiological commentary prepared with the general reader, students and teachers in mind. 

For those who would like to use it as a teaching and learning aid in a classroom situation the film has been segmented into twelve sequences of 10 to 15 minutes duration.


Friday Afternoon: Mitch and Melanie Meet 
(DVD Chapters 1/2: 9 mins) 
Let the film roll until Melanie says “That would be just fine!”   
We first hear the cries of birds that then appear to peck and claw at the film’s titles. The bird calls carry over 
the fade-in to a typical city scene with a tram, traffic, high-rise buildings, advertising hoardings and 
pedestrians. Melanie Daniels crosses the street in a chic black two piece, white blouse, patent leather 
handbag, leather gloves and elaborate coiffure. Everything about her says ‘elegance’. The skyline is filled 
with buildings and hoardings that read ‘Jet BOAC’, and ‘Air France Paris’. This is the start of a major motif 
that will run through the film: role reversal. Humans are admonished to fly; children will sing endlessly like 
chirping birds, birds will be freed from cages and humans will be locked up. Melanie passes a newsstand 
with a poster showing the Golden Gate with the words San Francisco depicted on it. Outside Davidson’s Pet 
Shop, a boy whistles at Melanie and, pleased with the attention, she stops, turns and smiles. One might ask 
what species uses a whistle to communicate! Melanie looks up at the sky crowded with screaming gulls. The 
hoardings inviting the passersby to fly are prominent in the composition. As Melanie enters the shop a man, 
Hitchcock himself, walks out with his two pet Sealyham terriers. He liked to make a personal appearance like 
this in his films. 
Immediately inside the pet shop, two model poodles are dressed up and set on a counter on the left of the 
frame. The air is filled with birdsong and gilded cages confine countless birds. Unlike those outside, these 
birds have lost their freedom: they exist at the whim of humans. Mrs McGruder, the shop assistant, offers the 
suggestion that a storm at sea must have driven all the gulls inland. This is one of many theories, some 
informed others less so, offered in the course of the film that try to explain the behaviour of birds. We learn 
that Melanie has a mynah bird on order. She is anxious that it should be able to talk.  
A debonair gent, Mitch Brenner, enters the store and stops beside the poodles to get his bearings. He is 
cocksure of himself and bounds confidently up the stairs. He has much in common with Melanie. They are 
both of an age. Both dress well. And when they interact, both are articulate and quick-witted. As Melanie 
writes her address for Mrs McGruder, Mitch seems to mistake her for a shop assistant. He asks for her help 
and tells her he wants lovebirds for his eleven year old sister: a pair that will interact without being too 
demonstrative. Like Melanie, he sees birds as something that exists for the gratification of the human race.  
The camera tracks along beside them as Melanie goes to finds the appropriate birds. Mitch adopts a sceptical 
view of what she has to say and trifles with her as she shows him around the shop. Both of them enjoy a 
practical joke, it seems. He corners Melanie into taking a canary out of its cage even though it is obvious she 
is out of her depth. (There is a typical Hitchcockian visual gag when Melanie tells Mitch that birds develop 
a certain ‘hang-dog expression’ when they are moulting: she moves past a portrait of two Sealyham terriers - 
the very ones that accompanied Hitchcock earlier - which is hanging on the wall!) There is a certain 
smugness in Mitch’s behaviour that is not very attractive. He cares little for the birds or Melanie. Having 
humiliated her into letting the canary escape, he moves into action suavely and re-captures it. Restoring it to 
its confinement, he says “Back in your gilded cage, Melanie Daniels!” It becomes obvious to her, and the 
audience, that he has been leading her on. He teases her further by telling her that he know her name because 
“... a little birdie” told him. Finally, he tells her that he saw her once in court. He feels she should be taken 
down a peg or two because of one of her practical jokes. His opinion is “The judge should have put you 
behind bars.” This notion of crime and punishment becomes central to the plot of the film. Courtroom 
interrogation, cross-examination and the delivery of the verdict will be a recurring motif in the film’s 
metaphoric order. This opinion also highlights Mitch’s uncomplicated logic of crime-judgement-
Melanie is furious at Mitch’s treatment of her. His parting jab is “See you in court!” Not to be outdone 
Melanie, quick-witted as she is, gets Mitch’s number and puts pressure on an employee of her father to get 
his name from the registry of motor vehicles. It is obvious from the conversation that she is a woman who is 
used to getting her own way. We see the poodles in their fetching costumes again as Melanie writes down 
Mitch’s number. She hatches a plan and orders a pair of lovebirds from Mrs McGruder. The screen fades out 
to black as Melanie ponders her next move. This sequence is set in brackets by the editing: it fades in at the 
beginning and fades out at the end. Both editing techniques are accompanied by the sound of birds. The 
opening sound was the raucous cawing of birds outside the pet shop and the closing one the far gentler sound 
of the caged birds inside.  
So, thus far in this narrative two people have met. There has been a certain amount of conflict between 
them. This conflict will act as the engine, as it were, that will drive the plot forward. We can see that Mitch 
strongly believes that judgement should be visited upon Melanie. She wants to train the mynah bird to talk. 
Mitch wants a pair of lovebirds for the amusement of his younger sister. As the movie develops we will see 
both Melanie and Mitch embark on a journey of self knowledge as they learn to respect others and come to 
realise that life as they know it is fragile and the order they take for granted can be shattered.