Film Birdman Of Alcatraz Directed By John Frankenheimer
The Birdman of Alcatraz tells the true story of a man in an American prison who becomes fascinated with birds. John Frankenheimer was the director of this 1962 film, which ran for over two-hours. Frankenheimer made a fictionalized version based on the life Robert Stroud. He was also known by the nickname ‘Birdman Alcatraz’.
Robert Stroud, the main character in the film, is portrayed as an aggressive male who loves to rebel against the rigid system of prisons. This is demonstrated when Stroud breaks a prison window in order to save the inmates. Stroud is depicted as a dangerous animal who repeatedly stabs the prison guard, and engages in conflict with fellow inmates. Eventually, he’s sentenced into solitary custody and hanged. Stroud is saved from death by the inmate’s mom, who pleads with the president to save her son. The prisoner is changed forever when he nursed a sickly bird back to life. The exclusion is physically portrayed by segregating and confining prisoners to a restricted space. They are also physically isolated from society. Stroud, the warden, gives Stroud the book of rules, stating that the prisoners are controlled by the surveillance and strict rules. Stroud gets a list of rules at the beginning of movie, and the warden tells him what he will do in every minute for 24 hours. It shows how prisoners have little autonomy and are constantly watched. The prison space is never neutral, but is always characterized by power relationships and a certain way of performing specific functions such as social exclusion.
Time is a key element in the movie. Prison life is structured by the prisoner’s schedule. The prison system organizes and controls it to limit inmates’ choices and promote discipline. Foucault explains that “Power is articulated right onto time. It guarantees its control and ensures its use”.
Stroud is shown to be a prisoner who lacks liberty when he describes himself as a ‘caged animal’. Stroud mentions to his bird that “out there… the night moves faster, the air is lighter and the clock tells the time” in reference to the outside prison. He emphasizes the fact that the bird has the freedom to fly while Stroud stays in his cell. Stroud mentions the clock in the movie and how it is possible to tell the time outside the prison. This ties into the concept of time, which is how prisons control time.
The film shows a theme of adaptation that runs throughout. Stroud begins the movie as an aggressive, rebellious prisoner. He was adapting in prison by rebelling against authority. As the movie progresses, Stroud became more interested in birds and began to show patience. Stroud began to withdraw from the film as he stopped trying in prison.
The society captives, a 1958 novel by G. Sykes, highlights how prisoners are deprived of basic rights, such as liberty, autonomy or security. The prison guards have control over the time, leaving prisoners powerless and weak. The novel illustrates the fact that the “contaminated man”, is a threat to a prisoner’s own self-concept, and the prisoner has to be reminded of the need to stay away from all “decent” men. The prison guards have authority over the time.
The book A Critical Introduction To Prisons And Imprisonment mentions that prisoners are denied their liberty in two ways. First, by being confined inside an institution. Second, by being confined within that institution. The Birdman of Alcatraz shows Stroud restrained behind bars away from other inmates and people outside of the jail, proving the concept of control. In the 18th-19th centuries, the purpose of punishment and space distribution was to minimize contagion and encourage self-reflection. This was more important than rehabilitation and reintegrating prisoners into society. Stroud, who was sentenced to solitary confinement with no socialization or other prisoners, is a good example of this.
Foucault asserted that’modern systems for discipline require positive forms of regulation, including inducements and rewards’. Prisoners must be supported in their return to society so that they can reform. This may include training programs and work schemes. He also said that the focus of punishment had shifted from disciplining bodies to disciplining “souls” over time. This was to illustrate how it is now seen more as a means of punishing an individual’s mind and helping him reflect, rather than punishing his body.
After seeing the success of Stroud with his birds, the warden allowed it. Oakwood Forensic Center was a maximum safety prison in Lima Ohio. They found it helped calm down violent inmates. Stroud apologized on screen to a security guard, despite never having apologized anywhere else in the last 20 years.
Stroud only got to keep the birds after the media brought him to public attention.
Overall, the film The Birdman Of Alcatraz showed the violent criminal’s transformation… as they faced the harsh prison elements such as solitary imprisonment, restriction, lack freedom and control.
The Society of Captives by G. Sykes, 1958.
Roger Matthews, 11 March 2016, Doing Time : Introduction to Sociology of Involuntary Detention
A Critical Introduction to Prisons and Incarnation by Yvonne jewkes, helen Johnston 2006. Pub place Cullompton p.164
https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2001/aug/25/weekend7.weekend3 j D Carpentieri sat 25 august 2001 Jail house flock
The Prisoner and Politics: Zoon Politikon Susan M. Easton 2018 page 191
The Society of Captives by G. Sykes, 1958.