I know I’m a little late to the party, but after weeks of anticipation I finally got to see Birdman last weekend. It didn’t arrive in my local cinema here in France until long after its release date, but it was worth the wait!
I don’t pretend to know a lot about cinematography or film in general and I have no intention of forcing the opinion of an ignorant critic upon you (If you’ve seen the film you’ll know why!)
However, I would like to comment on one element of the film that I found particularly engaging and that really made it a memorable and powerful experience for me.
The aspect of the film that I found the most fascinating was the ingenious way that the director managed to portray the confusing relationship between the imagination and mundane reality. Reality is a place where actions have consequences and ordinary happenings can usually be explained by a set of logical explanations. Our Imagination on the other hand permits us to escape beyond the bounds of these confines and experience things in a way that is far more difficult to explain using language, logic and rationality.
This duality of perception is highlighted by the film in a variety of ways. First of all, the arhythmic jazzy drummer soundtrack that is used throughout the film (apart from in some of the flying scenes if I remember correctly), prevents the audience from gaining a firm grasp of the version of reality that the film puts forward – It doesn’t employ the sort of four to the floor rhythms that we are all so accustomed to!
We are never sure if the protagonist occupies a world that is governed by the same rules as our own; the fact that Riggan Thomas may in fact have super powers and that we never really know for sure whether or not he does, prevents the audience from gaining a complete grasp of the situation, and in my opinion the drummer soundtrack adds to this disorientating portrayal of the world.
This lack of clarity is exactly what makes the film so special; it does not endeavour to explain everything that is shows us, but rather demonstrates that our lives are not as straightforward as more traditional objective narratives might suggest. Each of us interacts with the world via our own imagination, and therefore clarity and graspable objectivity are impossible to attain.
This confusing relationship between reality and imagination is something that is portrayed in a variety of ways throughout the film. For example, the film is about the making of a play, thus muddling the different ‘levels’ of reality that exist for us, the audience. Fiction and fact seem to blend together all too easily, and some of the most significant parts of the plot happen on stage!
All this means that the eventual ending of the film attains a heightened significance. Does Riggan Thomas realise the artistic dream of fusing his imagined version of reality with the ‘real’ world that his fans and us the audience share with him?
I had a whole list of other examples and arguments to bore you with but I think I’ll stop here. I hope you found my thoughts at least a little thought provoking and that you enjoyed the film as much as I did!