Written and Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (who is nominated for 2 Oscars for this film), Birdman tells the story of a washed up former blockbuster film star best known for playing an iconic superhero called “Birdman”. It follows the rehearsals and previews leading up to his opening night on broadway. It focuses on his relationship with his family, his ego and art. When I first came out of seeing this film I was slightly speechless, I had no idea what my opinion of it was. I think that Birdman is one of those films you really have to let sink in and process.
Filmmaking wise, it was incredibly interesting due to the long shots following the actors down the winding corridors of the theatre and clever editing techniques, the whole film felt like one continuous shot and in that way it brought you deeper into the film and made you feel more connected to the characters. The cinematography was fantastic, especially the colouring and lighting. Another interesting element was the soundtrack which was almost exclusively drums, which kind of felt like a drum role up to the pinnacle moment on opening night of the broadway show in this film. It also felt like a drum based street performance which is reflected in the film a few times when the characters are walking through the streets of New York and I thought that was really different and innovative.
One of the most interesting themes I found in this film was the idea of a true actor. There’s a lot of talk about truth in this film, about being honest with what you are. This is highlighted by Edward Norton’s character Mike (Oscar Nominated) who feels true on stage but false in real life. Protagonist Riggan (Michael Keaton) struggles with this because he wants to be seen as an actor but is seen as a celebrity. Although it’s not explicitly mentioned it’s about the film industry and whether you’re a real actor if you appear in a superhero epic rather than for example indie films. So I definitely think the casting of Michael Keaton, former Batman was a great choice. Current actors and films are mentioned such as Iron Man which again brings you closer into this world and makes you think upon this idea of true acting and the notion of “selling out”. Michael Keaton’s Oscar nominated performance in this film is fantastic, he shows this struggle with his ego incredibly well and the father-daughter relationship portrayed with Emma Stone (also Oscar nominated) was also very believable and compelling.
The most talked about scene in this film is Riggan’s monologue about critics. This occurs after an important critic says she’ll destroy his play without even viewing it because she hates who he is and what he stands for in terms of culture (again sell out vs true acting). He talks about how critics just slap a label on art instead of talking about the technique and meaning. I think this is what resonates with a lot of people when they come to review this film because it’s something everyone who has ever reviewed art has been guilty of and I think it’s interesting to see that highlighted so poignantly in this film.
The film is definitely full of surprises and gets very strange at times but it is a very interesting watch.