Exhilarating! Extraordinary performances! Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) is an outstanding flick that tries to capture the life of a washed up actor, his continuous battle to prove his mettle in the acting world once again. Michael Keaton, the protagonist plays a character that is miffed by his psychotic split persona, in his endeavour to revive and in the process, get a hold of himself.
Plot of Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s riveting drama isn’t just about a lost actor who is trying to find himself through a Broadway play but is also about a broken man trying to justify his relevance to the world. Birdman is an extremely well written dramatic account of Riggan’s life, his tattered relationships, his dream to make it big once again and the alter-ego that literally rules over him.
Inarittu’s direction is a beauty as he merges several frames subtly to project a continuous shot. The whole movie seems like it has been shot in a single take, and that illusion is worth an ovation. The director also gorgeously masters every frame’s timing quotient. Every act starts with a proper follow through of a character only getting intercepted when it’s someone else’s queue. The flow and rhythm of the movie is simply splendid.
There is something beautiful about Birdman’s story. The ploy is brilliantly narrated through the messed up head of Riggan with glimpses from his past debacles, screenplay that makes you brood that often cross over for emphasis, an ever ending take that goes on till the climax, and a conclusion that loosely dangles for intense interpretation. Everything has been wrapped up beautifully by an audacious and dark voice in his head, the one big thing he ever was – Birdman, one big success from the past that keeps haunting him, telling him he isn’t dead and that he flies above the meaningless.
Breaking Birdman Down
With an imaginary backdrop working along with the protagonist, you already know that you are in for a fantasy-world. What is crucial is that you pay attention. There are minute subtle hints that will blow your mind away while trying to connect the dots.
If we overlook the mind boggling ending for a while, still we are left with some exceptional drama pieces like when Sam speaks up to her father and shatters him with cold, when Riggan takes on a famous NYT critic in a bar and excellent conversations between Mike and Sam and Lesley’s remorse. Things become intense owing to bits of psychotic drama as Riggan inches towards insanity. The climax of the movie leaves you spell bound and is deliberately left open for interpretation.
Final Epilogue Explained (Spoilers)
If you have not seen the movie, please stop reading at once. But if you have, the ending is sure to raise a dozen doubts in your head.
The flick ends in a surreal epilogue with Riggan jumping out of the window, and Sam reacting happily to her Father’s ‘flying’ act. The one theory that I would like to believe but not stick to is Riggan’s death after he shot himself during the theater act. Reasons that reassure me of this:
- The plot was one continuous single take but the continuity breaks for the first time right after Riggan shoots himself.
- In the hospital when Jake switches on the TV it showed people lighting candles for him. You don’t do that for a person who is alive. Du-uh dead!
- The hospital scene was probably the next day right after the incident. Sam bringing flowers for him could be at his funeral. This justified by his inability to smell them. His funeral again supported by the fact that her wife was wearing a black dress.
Riggan jumping out of the window could be a symbolism of his soul transcending, as he finally rejects Birdman to be his only way to stardom. Sam’s smile in the end could be her acceptance of her father’s feat as a true hero.
Contradicting the Above Theory
What contrasts the above ‘dead’ theory greatly is the fact that there were several past failed suicidal endeavors by Riggan which have been subtly inserted into the screenplay. Lesley responding to Ralph once: “He shot himself in the mouth. But he screwed that up, too.” The Jellyfish story goes on to show how Riggan was unsuccessful in killing himself in the past. So shooting the nose seems plausible. Then it takes us again to the hospital part. Taking this theory ahead on the vanguard, we can say that the imagination of Riggan once again begins right from the part he decides to take off the bandages and the rest that follows is once again the imagination bit. In the end he flew fantastically and figuratively with an acknowledgment sign from her daughter. This seals the deal too.
Whatever the case might have been Birdman is truly a rare feat that must be celebrated. Go ahead and watch this movie if you wish to visit some avant-garde style of film-making.
Check out the trailer of Birdman movie here: