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Understanding Birdman. Analysis.

2015-08-16

by Kyle Armstrong

     I listened to many theories and generated my own. I have heard people perceive this entire movie as a dream or an illusion and his powers not being used to the full potential. Is this a work of Dadaism using reality and the perception of reality as its gateway to a metaphysical idea? An example given is that it is a movie about movies and happens to take place in a theater or is Birdman about the existential journey through the idea of psychosis? Possibly both. The film itself stands for many different things, I read What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, a book with many different stories with many different messages with a rising action of something, but no resolution. What each character is missing from this life is unknown, but it is the journey to find that unknown is what makes the biggest difference. Riggan wants admiration, but not as the characters he portrays, who is portraying the character. So Riggan will often see himself flying amongst others. The idea of art cannot be fully obtained, we cannot truly fully understand what the artist was thinking at the time, but we can see the visuals in front of us. What speaks louder the art or affluence growth? Hollywood could care less if you "like" something, but whether you go see it or not makes the biggest difference, answering the question "Why does Hollywood spur out the same shallow crap?". On the other hand, Birdman does poke at the idea of art itself in many forms, pointing out the forms that seem to be cash grabbers and calling it out for what it is, which is pretentious bullshit. The idea of being a BIRD-man of all things, where in reality Riggan is trapped in this metaphorical birdcage, even in places that you would think he would be free, his mind, is also trapped by his past. Making freedom and admiration more elusive than ever. The title "A Virtue of Ignorance" deems the idea of mankind as blissfully ignorant, that maybe not knowing what is inside of what you eat or what you watch, or even what lies ahead in the future, is what we like to think of as a good thing. He is mocking us at the very least for not thinking about what we watch, instead, tuning into mindless box office gold. Riggan wants this admiration, is finally doing something about it, but isn't shown any until he is forced to run around Time Square in his underwear (which, honestly, isn't the weirdest thing I have seen at Time Square). Riggan can't have this affirmation as an actor or a father, so he has this reminding guilt of Birdman that follows him around, constantly reminding him of what he could have done and what he thinks he is. "A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing" is a note in the mirror of Riggan's dressing room, now a good example of what this means is when Tabitha tells Riggan about how she will still give the play a terrible review no matter what, because that is how she feels about him. Then there is the way the film is shot, which talking about it already feels like beating a dead horse. The way it is directed is supposed to have this feel of one long shot because we are supposed to follow these characters around, as if they are apart of our lives, as if we are there, on this journey with them. Something that not many talk about is the transition from past to present, which I find very interesting, as if the past is going on the same time the present is, suggesting that the two aren't so different, if we never do anything about it. Reality vs. Perception of reality, Riggan may or may not be an unreliable narrator, this being his story and he is telling the way he remembers it or how he wants to remember it. Like Lolita, to get the full story we must look at each detail carefully. Now I would like to analyze the very ambiguous ending, so, it kinda goes without saying, but spoilers. There are 3 scenes where Riggan may have died, the first is after the bloated idea of Birdman talks to him and he is later seen standing on the edge of his metaphorical career with nothing to lose, so he jumps. We see the image of Riggan above everyone, but then we are brought back to reality when the cabbie runs in for his bill. The next scene we see is Riggan lying on his desk with flowers around him and someone he used to associate himself with says good things about him, something that reminds me of the "flowers when you're dead" quote from the Catcher in the Rye, however, instead of shoving it away, this is what Riggan really wants. We are told the story with the jellyfish, which I find very interesting, in which Riggan tried killing himself, but is brought back to life by these metaphorical jellyfish, symbolizing the idea of fame and how you cannot escape it. Which brings me to the next possible death, where he shoots himself on stage with (once again) nothing to lose and (once again) is given the admiration he longs for. In the hospital, it is clear that he just shot off his "nose", replacing it with his beak, wrapping it in a metaphorical Birdman mask, because (once again) past fame is inescapable. We are then shown one of the most beautiful scenes in the film, where Sam lies in the hospital bed with the father she admires, almost as beautiful as the "wiping out the entire human race" with the wipe of Riggan's mouth. The final death is the more obvious one where he jumps out the window (or is it?). Sam in shock of her missing father runs to the window, looks up, looks down, the laughs in amazement. No, she does like the site of her father's splattered corpse on the pavement, and no she is not witnessing her father fly (in a literal sense), she can finally look up to her father (metaphorically and literally) not because of the admiration he is getting, but because of the thought of losing him.

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