I saw this Oscar winning film last night with my family. I enjoyed the movie. As a matter of fact, I would say it is potentially one of my favorites of all time. A really well-done dark-comedy. It’ll take some rewatching to analyze it more. The plot, as summerized in wikipedia, is about an actor (Riggan), famous for portraying an iconic superhero, struggles to mount a Broadway play in NYC. Riggan is destined to be misunderstood. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career and himself.
It is very difficult to notice all details in the film, and even more if the film is watched once. If you only pay attention to the outside of the movie, you’ll merely notice a fancy camera work and soundtrack and perhaps everyone’s pointless chase to fame and celebrity. Such would make the film seem like a shallow one and you wouldn’t have but missed a huge part it.
There are certainly many things that we don’t know about this movie. Is Riggan sane? Is he a superhero pretending to be an actor or viceversa? What happened after he jumps off the building at the end? Well, we are ignorant about these things… But our creativity fills up the holes. And that’s the unexpected virtue of ignorance.
One point that I obsess over in the film is that it’s one long shot with the drums barely going away up until he shoots himself, aside from the scene where he’s flying – which turns he was just using a taxi. It made the film seem claustrophobic, while making it your own, Riggan is only free from the tightness (as is Mike) of his life when he’s disconnected from reality: while acting or supposedly dead.
He spends the entire film trying to separate himself from Birdman via the play. He is essentially in a battle with critics and public perception because he knows he has to overcome their recognition of him as Birdman firstly (his self-destructive ego), actor secondly.
In the end of the film, we come to the point in which we have to decide whether he actually killed himself in the play, or survived eventually. When I first saw it, I thought he had successfully killed himself on stage, and the final sequence in the hospital is his version of heaven or his thoughts just as his brain shuts off. His wife is back with him, his daughter is affectionate, his play gets very good reviews, he’s acclaimed by the people, and finally, his daughter recognizes the greatness that he sees in himself: she admires him. It’s all too good to be true.
I shared these thoughs with my family and my dad convinced me of it not being like that at all. According to our interpretaion, Riggan did not, in fact, kill himself. The director would just mean to make us see suicide as the best door out, which would discourage any Oscar nomination, just as an example. Hence we opt for the hospital scene being another metaphor: he purged himself of Birdman, leaving him fucked off on the toilet, the play being indeed a hit, and now he can “fly”, for real, and not with drugs in a rubber suit, with his daughter looking on, proud and happy for him.
This doesn’t mean death and suicide loose their role in the film, though. As a matter of fact, the idea of death, specifically wanting to commit suicide, are key. There are several instances in which it seems as if Riggan commits suicide: on stage, when he flies for the first time (this last one also plays into the idea of independence, of release from society). It is not until the end when he is truly free. He jumps out of the window into freedom.
To be honest, I would have personally liked it better if the movie ended with Riggan standing in the window, looking up at the birds, with the audience wondering whether if he was going to jump and kill himself, jump while thinking he could fly, or go back into the room.
Another scene I would have wiped off is the lesbian scene. It was weird and it came out of nowhere. Then again, I think it was not only meant as a “lesbian scene”. I took from the movie that, aside from Riggan, every character wanted some sort of acceptance. Riggan from his daughter and the critics, Sam from her father, Laura from Riggan, Lesley from Mike, and so on… The moment when Laura and Lesley give this acceptance and recognition to each other via a kiss, they confuse it with love. They all confuse admiration with love.
Anyways, the beautiful reality of this film, and why I made it my own, is that this world is filled with people who have all kinds of struggles, and not one of us has it easy. We all have our Birdman, our demons and we all, at some point, try to search for that which was never meant to be ours, and never will be.