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Is Birdman Overrated? No It's Not

Updated on February 10, 2015

They make noises, and think they are talking to each other/ They make faces, and think they understand each other - TS Eliot

When Sam asked Mike several times, ‘Truth or dare?’, Mike was always for truth. To young Sam who just returned from rehab, truth was boring but to Mike who is vibrant and mature, truth is interesting. Did he touch the film’s very essence with the dialogue?

No, don’t get me wrong. Of course, all art form deal truth from creators’ perspective and Alejandro González Iñárritu has tried to present a very different visual to tell his story of truth. Is it eternal conflict between art and pop culture? Or it is the waves of self contradictions that torment an artist’s inner world?

We may remember Stravinsky at this point who pointed out that real art is not about just using reference but it smas the rules and create something that is never seen before and in the process it may fail.

Now we all know, Iñárritu has thought of newer images and convinced Emmanuel Lubezki to do the experiment. Unlike a regular film, every scene of it was rehearsed. So, in a sense, the director tried both truth and dare to tell a story of the world of art.

The inner world of Riggan

To cut short we may say, Riggan was trapped by Birdman and he had to shoot to get rid of his captivator. In an innermost world, now he can fly not to fight crimes but to satisfy his own urge to be free.

As a superhero he is the man of destruction, widely acclaimed by the viewers. But his artist self knows, every crime and every monster he fights is not what he meant in life. Birdman is popular but Riggan is not. He feels that he would have to beg people to be loved. The new era of showbiz did not suit him and his daughter Sam is there to remind that in every step. But nobody knows what he can do when he is with Birdman. Unlike, other movies, Birdman did not appear as a dark alter ego of the protagonist but it is completely opposite. The fictitious character is confronted by the real one.

The artist’s ego is of that size, which dare to rival the universe and an unsatisfied artist is more ravenous than a wounded tiger.

So how Michael Keaton did to portray this too complex character?

Two thumbs up should be the appropriate phrase. Just one shot to support the argument- when Sam tells him how backward he is and leave, think about how he endured it. He calmly picked the part of the pot that Sam left; lightens it but could not finish. Then, stands there and slowly starts for the door. This whole indifferent treatment made the scene so touching that knocks on the sensibility.

The Aggressive Mike

Like Riggan, Mike has his own contradiction too but deals in his own way.

Mike deliberately separated his stage self from the real self and all that was for the sake of art. In real, he may not get his ‘thing’ up to respond to a moment but in stage when he is to portray a lover, gets a hard on, even in front of hundreds of people.

His artistic aggressiveness is the alter ego of Riggan and in that way Norton was the perfect supporting actor in this movie.

But was this character a bit underdeveloped? I think it was.

Decisive confrontation with the destitution of the modern age

It is a phrase borrowed from Heidegger and I think that was the essence of the story. No matter how many people are following you on twitter of facebook page, the real question at the end is this- what have you done with your life and skill?

Unconcealment of truth is all about crafting art with the help of setting up a world. The inner self of an artist is always haunted by this statement. What am I really doing? Is this really me? And so the discontented Riggan says, ‘I am nothing, I am not even here’.

Despite all the agony, all the provocations from suited Birdman, all the fantasies of flying along the sky, Riggan gets back to the Broadway and pays the Taxi Driver.


Enrapturing images

Did you notice that Sam has so beautiful big eyes that stare into the world with utter sadness? Maybe you could not have notice if she was not shot by Emmanuel.

Emmanuel Lubezki has just blown out the spectator’s mind whether they liked the film as a whole or not. I have met several viewers who have said that they did not like Keaton or the dramatic approach but everyone of them admitted that the visual was something ‘never experienced before’. And the credit solely goes to the Director Iñárritu, who actually convinced Emmanuele at the first place to go for this type of experiment.

Much have been told about the one long take shot feel of the movie. But a little was mentioned about the use of the light and lenses. How in excellent way, the stage performance was separated from the other world with blue and red! And look at the powder room of Riggan. The harsh saturated light depicts the agony along with the old handheld unrest camera movements.

And I specially like to mention the end shots where the movie is succumbed to abstract images, like, superheroes dancing, the sea. The word ‘Spectacular’ needs to be redefined to use for the movie.

The holes

One thing can be said without any debate, the story told here is quite old one and has been told many times before. Yes, the newer form of storytelling made it distinctive but somehow one might find pretension in the scenes. It was even reflected in writing. In many cases, if you knew the grammar, you could have predicted what next dialogue might be coming.

Two underdeveloped characters in this movie are- Sam and Mike. Most uneasy part in this movie that Mike suddenly disappeared after Riggan’s shooting. The story demanded his appearance after the unconcealment of truth on the stage. And again, Sam was only there to represent the ‘viral mongering youth’ and could have played better role to reveal Mike’s feelings.

There are some irrelevant elements that might be taken as redundant. Lesley and Laura’s lesbian passion was quite sudden, out of context and seemed posing.

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