Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Some Thoughts on Birdman

There may be spoilers ahead…
The meaning of Birdman is open to interpretation, and that’s what I think is so great about it, but also what divides opinion about it.  It doesn’t leave the viewer with any real answers.  Things are not wrapped up in a neat little bow at the end.  Is it a film about mental illness?  Is it about a man who once played a superhero who then discovers he has actual superhero powers?  Is it just about the self-obsession of those involved in the film and theatre world?  Well, yes.  It’s about all these things.  And that’s the problem.

The first time I watched it I thought it was about a man having a mental breakdown, and I was confused by the ending (or, if you prefer, the multiple endings).  On a second viewing I noticed details I hadn’t spotted the first time around and I saw the film in a more positive light.  It seemed to be to be about a man who risks everything to take a great leap into the unknown (as Riggan, Michael Keaton’s ageing Hollywood actor, does both literally and metaphorically throughout the film) only to discover he can fly (again, in a literal and metaphorical sense).  It’s about taking risks in life, staking everything, even if the odds are stacked against you, and coming out a success (if a little damaged).  This interpretation made more sense for me.  Suddenly the ending seemed like a metaphor for the entirety of the film that had preceded it.  I could be wrong, but I’ll settle on that one for now.

The film has a lot of ambition – with great performances from Keaton and the rest of the cast, lots of memorable quotable dialogue, and a seamless flow (only 16 visible cuts) that pulls us into the film as if we’re watching the scenes unfold in real life.  It’s a film that can be watched again and again, with the viewer noticing different things each time.  In time I have no doubt it will be considered a classic.

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