Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), is a 2014 American black comedy-drama film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.
Nominated for a total of nine Oscars, Birdman is surrealist black comedy at its best. Mocking the artifice of celebrity and the entertainment industry, Birdman is a fascinating inside look into the absurd insanity of entertainment world as perceived by its protagonist, Riggan Thomson.
Thomson (Keaton) is a faded Hollywood actor famous for his superhero role, struggling to mount a Broadway adaptation of a Raymond Carver story. To Thomson, the play “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” is the only way he can achieve relevance and meaning in his life. In his path, are duplicitous co-actor Mike Shiner, his ex-junkie daughter Sam, his manipulative girl-friend Laura (Andrea Riseborough), first-time Broadway actress Lesley (Naomi Watts) and producer Jake (Zach Galifianakis).
From the first time we see Thomson – levitating in lotus position (like Doctor Manhattan!) in his dressing room – as we hear Birdman’s voiceover, we learn that he is not exactly in the best mental health. That’s one thing – then as Thomson leaves, the camera follows him to the stage floor in a continuous take when we realize that the entire film has been edited to make it seem like one long continuous take!
This unconventional visual style lends itself to the claustrophobic, paranoid world of Thomson as he struggle against the fates and himself to make sense of his own existence. The performances are excellent throughout with Keaton and Norton, particularly memorable. It’s difficult not to draw parallels between Thomson and Keaton (who played Batman all those years ago) himself, which presumably the whole point of the exercise!
Iñárritu has crafted an absurdist tour de force – taking pot shots at the very industry he works in and holding up a cracked mirror to its worst excesses whilst proving why film can (in the right hands) be as relevant and meaningful as Thomson demands his life to be. A film that deserves every accolade and deserves to be viewed over and over again to divine it’s many blessings!
Out in cinemas now