Friday, 13 March 2015

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) - Film Review

This has also been published at Women's Web.

When I sat to watch the movie "Birdman", there was no denyng that it was indeed because it was the Oscar win this year. I knew that if I like it, it'd mean I've understood it; else, I plain haven't had got it. I had assumed it'd be one which would be rich in a way that I'd have to try and reach. That I'd need to understand references, watch out, and would possibly miss out on few layers.

At the end of it, I realise a different thing - that, what I actually missed out on was the name of the movie. The entire name, which is:

"Birdman - The unexpected Virtue of Ignorance!"

That said, the rest was really for you and for me, and for any and all of us.

The storyline was rather simple - a story of a yesteryear star who played a super-being "Birdman", and is now trying to make a come-back in form of a Broadway stage theater director cum actor.

What is strikingly outstanding in the filmmaking was the way it appears to be shot. By the time the film progresses somewhat, you're already familiar with the time and space of the movie, the place where they're living, rehearsing and about to stage their theater production. It appears like the film is shot at one go, and as you do a quick Google search, the rest of internet confirms that. The subtle advantage of that appearance is that comfort level and oneness that the audience grows - they feel, you don't hide and cover anything in what you are telling, and in return, you plain have them along, with you!

Now, coming to the core. The kind of film audience orientation that I have - and yes, I know this from many post-movie discussions I have with my co-watchers who sort of have a different angle every time - I am more about the feelings I derive from the story and the emotions that about camera angles and technical showcases. So, beyond the point of feeling one or not with the narration, it had to had a connection with me to get me.

It did.

It was not the surface stoy that had a magic; it was not the string of events that did the magic. To me, that is. It was the takeaway, rather. What, I come to next.

An yesteryear star, fallen from grace, putting all his efforts into this one-time thing. And then, by the grace of how the narration goes, you as audience live the space and the time with him. His initial calm, his usual hurdles, resolutions, and his progresses. And then  it comes! While the surface hurdles are resolved, dissolved, one by one, they come at a cost, The cost of ego! The cost of being trumped, being tramped over. While this whole thing, the effort, was about his turn-around in his career that had once been, and it was for solely that that he had gone all-out and gave his all, at the penultimate moment of realising the fruits comes someone in guise of the replacement for the main actor, and threats and spoils and steals his show away!

And then, more than giving it back to him - or rather, after trying and failing to suitably give it back to him - it eventually becomes time that he deals with himself first. He gets into situations where he faces a few truths about himself and digs out the super being that he had buried in himself all the while. He realises how his inspiration, his kick, his strength, and yes, weakness too, were all in the inside. All along. Within him. It's doesn't have much to do with anything, almost anything, outside him!

Often as it happens, lessons of life come from those who apparently look like they need them the most; in fact at times, they do too!

The daughter - drug-addict, rehabbed and yet uncured, full of contempt for the father, a young girl of noticeable self-esteem, one who likes to remain "invisible" so that she doesn't have to much face the world, tries to keep herself busy because else she finds herself dangerously dangling her feet from atop the roof of the tall building - is the ones who brings him the answer he was looking for.

After a rather disastrous confrontational outburst on how he has been struggling but failing and was worthless, something that was last that he needed to hear when he was already so wings tied, she brings him a wonderful message. A mere comparison: The entire time that the world had existed, the six billion years, that, what when put into tiny dashed lines on a toilet paper roll each dashed standing for a thousand years, makes up for the entire paper roll; and that, vis-a-vis how long we, humans, have been around. A mere one fifty thousand years - mapped into a petty few inches of a toilet paper strip that's not even good enough to even wipe the face. That, that big, really, is what we've inflated as ego and based all our understanding and meaning of lives upon!

Really, that's it!

The lesson works inside him. It stays. It brings him above his fears and insecurities, it escalates him. As an artist, as a man. As a man very close to realising himself. He gains an understanding of life he cannot immediately deal with, and messes up! He, on the night of the play, shoots himself for real in the scene where he was supposed to play-act with a toy pistol. He blows his nose off, and in return wins what he didn't plan - a raving review from the make-or-break reviewer siting his act as one of a discovery of what she called "super-realism" form of art.

Super-realism, indeed!

Finally, the very significant last but one scene. He leaves. He flies.

And then, the final one. She finds out. She understands.

The daughter understands. She smiles to see the father finally soaring high in the sky.

He is done with proving himself, he is done with his purpose. Though, he didn't much have control on the how.

Nevertheless, freedom. Freedom, finally!

The unexpected Virtue of Ignorance, indeed.


Post Script (dated 3.5.2017):

I just came across this rather intriguing take on the ending. Here: