I went to see Birdman last night. Giles Peterson had been saying how great it was and I’m a sucker for a super cool DJ telling me what to do and where to go, so I figured I’d enjoy it.
Nothing could have really prepared me for what it actually was. In short, it’s a story of a washed up ex Hollywood actor, trying to make it in on Broadway with his own adaptation of Raymond Carvers ‘What we talk about when we talk about love’. Michael Keaton, who I haven’t seen around much recently, is supported by a pretty stellar cast; Zach Galifianakis, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton and others, obviously.
Set mainly in the theatre on Broadway where the play is being staged, it’s an irresistible glimpse of the insular life these actors lead. It’s filmed in a hugely claustrophobic way, with the camera following the cast through the warren of corridors in the bowels of the theatre, the steadycam riding on their shoulders, so that it seems that some of the dialogue is directed at you, the viewer. It’s a massively engaging method, but rather unsettlingly reminded me of Requiem for a Dream, although much less disturbing.
Riggan Thompson (Keaton) is haunted by his alter ego, Birdman. Together they had created a Hollywood blockbuster in the 90’s and Birdman for one, can’t let go of that. He drives Thompson forward, pulls him back and spins him sideways in ways which are on the one hand, inevitable and on the other, totally tragic.
The film seems to explore several themes – the validity of Hollywood on Broadway, father-daughter abandonment, using public performance as a way of confirming your own identity, to name but a few. (I’m pretty sure I’ve missed a few points there, but this is all personal opinion yes?). For me though, it was a film about a man, who throughout his whole life had been someone else and for once, just wanted to be himself. It was an odd, quirky, funny, dark exploration into the human ego and our place on this planet and it bloody worked for me. Hugely enjoyable.