Birdy (1984): Alan Parker’s Drama of Postwar Trauma, Starring Nicolas Cage and Matthew Modine

Alan Parker’s “Birdy,” starring Matthew Modine and Nicolas Cage, is a powerfully dramatic chronicle of postwar trauma.

The story concerns a boy who develops a fascination with avian life. He boyhood friend, years later, suffering from wartime injuries, returns to coax the adult Birdy out of his madness and back into the “real” world.

The film unfolds in a series of flashbacks.  Its present-day sections are set in a military mental hospital, where the vet tries to elicit some human response from his friend.  Birdy has finally transformed himself into one of the creatures of his dreams.  He stares at his friend with one eye, birdlike, and perches naked and motionless on the railing of his hospital bed.

These scenes are contrasted with glimpses of the younger, happy-go-lucky friend, whose inters are girls and weight-lifting, and the delicate, grinning Birdy, whose obsession has not yet drawn him away from human contact.  It ends in a combative scene.

Sandy Kroopf and Jack Behr’s script is based on the novel by William Wharton, which interestingly is set in the era of WWII, rather than in Vietnam, as seen in the film.


Birdy (Matthew Modine)

Al Columbato (Nicolas Cage)

Dr. Weiss (John Harkins)

Mr. Columbato (Sandy Baron)

Hanna Rourke (Karen Young)

Renaldi (Bruno Kirby)

Birdy’s Mother (Delores Sage)


Running time: 120 Minutes

Produced by Alam Marshall

Directed by Alan Parker

Music: Peter Gabriel

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