“I hope when people see this film and think about it a little, they will see themselves. There are no people who don’t blow themselves to pieces the way this character does, ”Gonzalez told Iñaritta in an interview he was interviewed shortly after Birdman was released on the wide screen. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
In case you are not already aware, he won two Oscars for Best Director (for Birdman and Survivor), and also won the coveted statuette for Best Picture (for Birdman). Alejandro Gonzalez Iñaritto also has a reputation as one of the most depressing and serious directors, but not in the context of his own state of mind, but in terms of the projects he is working on.
Inyarittu has his own view and his own principles, which he adheres to unswervingly. In particular, the quality of the film being shot is always more important to him than the size of the potential earnings. The director believes that he will never earn hundreds of millions of dollars with his films, because, in principle, he does not make a movie that is capable of blowing up modern distribution. Moreover, he is convinced that as soon as the filmmakers start thinking primarily about money, their work is somewhere outside of creativity.
He also has his own opinion about the replicated films about superheroes, which are repeatedly played up satirically in Birdman (by the way, this opinion is shared by the scriptwriters of the project). They believe that the whole concept of “superheroism” boils down to people who have money and power, and who protect the “good” and kill the “bad.” In other words, to an endlessly “black and white” world, to a complete absence of deep meaning, which they sometimes try to claim. However, the entire industry of high-budget “popcorn” films, in principle, does not evoke any positive associations in Alejandro Gonzalez Iñaritta, which he shows without any special embellishment in his film.
Doomed to be mediocre
Without a doubt, the central and key figure of this film is Riggan Thompson and his alter ego – Birdman, a superhero played in the last century. The only known role and the only chance for success, long lost under the burden of the years that have passed since then.
Regarding the perception of Birdman himself, most of the viewers were divided into two camps: someone considers him a manifestation of schizophrenia, someone just an artistic device designed to show us what is going on in the head of the protagonist. The second option is rather more plausible, although both of them have the right to exist.
This is not A Beautiful Mind or Black Swan. This is not a movie about a character becoming insane, and his personality and life seeping through his fingers, crumbling like sand. This is a film about a man who is doomed to fail. About a man who is not stupid and kind, but definitely not great. About the aged, balding, wrinkled idol of the parents of today’s youth, not mediocre, but not talented either. Forgotten long ago, but not forgotten what it feels like to bathe in the rays of glory.
About who cannot be called a model of decency, as well as a notorious scoundrel. About a man who lost his family, did not follow his daughter, but still understands that something in this life is absolutely empty, and something deserves the title of worthwhile. And desperately trying to grab it by the tail, catch it, before it’s too late, while his whole fate has not finally turned into a comic parody of normal life. But, of course, his attempt to move from Hollywood that forgot him to Broadway, which does not know him, is doomed to failure in advance.
Coincidence or satire on ourselves?
It is also widely believed among Birdman fans that many of the actors who played in the film, in fact, ridiculed themselves with these roles. The concept, again, has the right to life, although Alejandro Gonzalez never gave Iñaritta a clear affirmative answer to the question about it.
With regard to Michael Keaton, it is almost impossible to refrain from such associations. Having charmingly played Batman in two charming films by Tim Burton, and before that – also Beetlejuice in the film of the same name by the same Burton, in the early 1990s, young Keaton was one of the most famous Hollywood actors. Only after that, his career did not really work out. Yes, he sometimes appeared on the screen in minor roles or in little-known films, but he never had a single high-profile role before Birdman. And somehow it so happened that, it would seem, until quite recently we saw Michael young and charming, and now he is over sixty years old.
As for the rest of the actors, everything is not so simple. Although some colleagues admitted that working with Edward Norton can be difficult at times, he still does not have the fame of an eccentric and eccentric actor who is ready to unlearn anything in an effort to prove his exclusivity. The character of Naomi Watts is also only partially similar to her, and in Emma Stone there is not so much of everything from Sam.
How to understand the ending of the film?
The film ends with Riggan Thompson shooting himself with a real gun during the film’s premiere. After that, it turns out that the play was a success, and the act of the actor was called “the unexpected dignity of ignorance”, deciding that the shot was fired by accident. By the way, this phrase is also present in the full title of the film, which they decided not to use in USA box office.
Sam finally brings Thompson his favorite flowers, and in general shows concern for his father’s health, which is quite a contrast to her usual behavior. The bandages on Riggan’s face follow the shape of Birdman’s mask, and he, removing it, disappears into the window opening: probably soaring upward.
This, again, can be understood in different ways. You can believe that everything has become fine, and calm down on this. However, the overall emotional tone of the film is unlikely to allow you to do this. Somewhere deep down, you will understand that you could not just take everything and immediately become good. That it is much more like another, the last game of the protagonist’s imagination, softening the last moments of his presence in our world. That even the loser Riggan Thompson is unlikely to miss shooting point blank. That death on the stage, after which his hopeless play will suddenly begin to be praised, is the only possible completion of the life path of such a person, in which he has not yet lost his personal dignity.
Cinematographer, Writers and Raymond Carver
There are many factors to the success of this film, and one of those components is the impressive work of Emmanuel Lubezky. “Birdman” was filmed on a limited budget in limited locations, with unconventional lighting for cinematography. And it is Lubecki who should be thanked for the unique atmosphere that was created in this project.
Another important point is the writers, of whom there were already four in Birdman, including the director. As the filmmakers later said, they all participated in the creation of the script equally, which is quite unusual. More often than not, there is a main scriptwriter, and there are several “proofreaders”. But here everyone had the opportunity to express their ideas, no matter how strange they may be, and weave them into the canvas of the plot.
And finally, Raymond Carver. Of course, the idol of the main character did not participate in the making of the film: he died in 1988. But one cannot talk about “Birdman” and not note that Raymond Carver is the idol of Alejandro Gonzalez Iñaritta himself. According to the director, the idea of staging a play based on Carver’s work on Broadway is so bad that the writer himself would certainly have appreciated it. Moreover: some of the elements from the story “What are we talking about when we talk about love”, in fact, transferred to the plane of interaction of the characters of “Birdman”. The main character of this story desperately longs to be loved, as does Riggan Thompson.
By the way, after the premiere, the widow of Raymond Carver said that her late husband would laugh heartily at what was happening. And whether you laugh after watching, or find the strength to think about something – this is your choice.