Birdman was released in 2014 and captured four Oscars during award season the following year. And is it me, or do a majority of the films that get nominated seem to come out towards the end of the year? Anyhow, the film won for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography. Birdman also took home a Golden Globe for Best Screenplay and Best Actor.
What captivated me most about the film were the style of directing and the use of the camera. Alejandro González Iñárritu has a directing style apart from other directors. Iñárritu’s creativity shines with this production and is particularly effective in bringing the character intimacy to each character throughout the film. His use of a continuous flowing shot to move through the scenes in this film added to the frantic mood the protagonist was experiencing. Some may have been put off by this technique, but I felt it brought me closer to the characters in their moments.
Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thomson, an actor who played a fictional superhero, Birdman, years earlier. Trying to find what is important to him and to revive his career he writes, directs, and stars in a play about to open on Broadway. His co-stars Mike (Edward Norton), Lesley (Naomi Watts), and Laura (Andrea Riseborough) examine their lives as they prepare for opening night and spend their days navigating the complicated game of life and the theatre world. Emma Stone portrays Riggan’s estranged daughter, Sam, and offers a strong performance.
Iñárritu adds another player in the film with the music throughout the scenes. Drummer Antonio Sanchez underscored scenes revealing Riggan’s thoughts and feelings through the beats and rhythm of the percussion. It brings out Riggan’s struggles as he deals with money, critics and his own personal ego to make sure this project does not come up short of the success he needs.
Maybe that’s another reason why I was drawn to this film. It is about actors and their craft. It is about the theatre world. Just about any film that deals with actors being actors and the daily circumstances leading up to opening night holds my interest because I have been in that world (mostly on the collegiate level) as an actor and a member of the production team, including sound designer. So I know how important light, sound, and music can be to a show.
Theatre is a collaborative art. Birdman is collaborative too. It is a beautifully crafted film, rich with exciting performances and originality. It is based on the story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” by Raymond Carver. From the writing by Iñárritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo, to the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman explores the inner dilemmas (particularly Riggan’s) and the struggle to become more than a mere mortal.