Hollywood is one of the most influential cities of modern society. Although the box office boasts of financial earnings in the millions, many of the films that pass through it are full of mediocre, repetitive plots and reusedcharacters. Old novels are recycled into new films, remakes and sequels abound. Occasionally, however, a film comes through that strikes the masses and invokes deeper thought. “Birdman” is one of these films.
Of all the films nominated at this year’s Oscars, it was one of two with the most nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Director, and Cinematography, among others. Alejandro G Iñárritu took home the award for Best Director, and the film won three other awards, including Best Original Screenplay.
Michael Keaton plays the part of Birdman, aka Riggan Thomson, a washed-up superhero actor who has moved on to Broadway in the hopes of reviving his fame. While Thompson may worry the world has forgotten him, Keaton’s performance is anything but forgettable.
Strikingly offbeat with a fierce narrative, this film is an intriguing journey through one man’s life to be important. From the very first scene, the film was captivating, drawing the audience in with a score that alternated between drumbeats and a full, soaring orchestral theme. The opening title rolls through in jumbled bits, beating to the percussion of a single drum-set in the background.
The starkness of the opening scene, Birdman levitating cross-legged in his dressing room and a gruff voice speaking the opening line, “how did we get here?” sets the mood immediately.
This film is a tribute to the art of cinema, the scenes, cinematography and dialogue create a kaleidoscope of complex emotion and stunning visuals that break the barriers most filmmakers hold. Scenes are often one long shot.
The symbolism in this film is intriguing. The character of Birdman signifies Thomson’s alter-ego, the voice in his head that fills him with doubt and self-loathing. “I’ve got this voice that talks to me sometimes,” he tells his wife near the end of the movie, “tells me the truth. It’s comforting.”
The persona’s abusive nature and the fact it is such an ingrained part of him just shows the dichotomy of his character and the psychosis he’s let himself fall into. The film’s imagery takes on a distinct surrealist feel, blurring reality with unreality until they are almost indistinguishable.
Thomson may be fighting against not being forgotten, but this film doesn’t need to. Birdman’s memory will live on.