Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A Little Bird Told Me...

I think the last time I cried, properly cried, watching a film was Finding Nemo. Not exactly high-brow taste, I know. But it was at that bit of the film when you thought Nemo and his Dad were going to be separated forever and I had a #KantKope moment in the cinema.

I love movies, I have since I was a little girl. The impossible glamour of the silver screen, the thousands of stories that are told through glances and sighs, musical scores and carefully edited shots. I love all kinds of films, old and new, brash and subdued, meaningful and fluffy. But it has been quite a while since I saw a film that emotionally affected me like Birdman.

In retrospect, the decision to see it on Sunday was taken with a good deal of naivety. My viewing partner and I decided it would be a lighter choice than A Most Violent Year for the laid-back, low-key day that was in it. Fools rush in and all that jazz.

From the basic synopsis I had read, I expected more light than darkness in this tale of an ex-superhero movie star attempting to prove his chops to the world and himself. A satirical take on the struggle to be taken seriously as an actor, Birdman is that and so much more.

It's gritty. It's complicated. It's intense. It's the breakdown of a man, the fragility of us all, the struggle against the demons that co-exist.

It's funny and brilliant and the acting is superb, not just from Keaton - who will be robbed if he isn't acknowledged with an Oscar - but the whole cast, who combine to make it an outstanding film.

There's the shallow portrayal of Hollywood, never a place that's been revered for it's depth to begin with, whose 21st century incarnation takes a slaughtering in the film; from the studios commissioning re-hashed guaranteed money-maker franchise films, to the critics who will tear into the heart of another human and not loose a moment's sleep over it. At the other end of the scale, Ed Norton embodies every actor who will tell anyone and everyone how they do it for the sake of art and art alone; lying to themselves about the fact that they want to be adored every bit as much as their C-standard counterpart who sells out for the glory and the gongs. There's Emma Stone's realistic portrayal of a messed-up young woman who's self-obsession mainly messed her up, but finds it easier blame it on that which she was denied rather than be appreciative of that which she has.

But, despite the searing skewering,  the film doesn't pass judgement on it's posers. It's a contradictory stance for a film that is nothing if not full of contradictions. The desire to find something true and pure, inexorably tied into the egotistical belief that you and you alone can be the one to find it. Vanity versus self-consciousness. Delusion against painful reality.

The fact that the film is shot like it's one continuous take creates an impression of a constant stream of consciousness which, in a strange way, although done on a cinematic scale, echoes the the rumbling pull-cart of our own lives; no stops, no unbroken string.

Coming out of the cinema, I felt raw and exposed - as if my inner monologues had been put on a screen for everyone to see. Then I realised it was because in a way they had. Right, I don't have a superhero alter-ego who says I can fly, but we all have a Birdman. That voice in our heads, that presence in our lives that makes us doubt ourselves.That whispers - or sometimes screams - our greatest fears; that we're not good enough, smart enough, funny enough, or just enough. That we won't be loved, won't be accepted, won't be celebrated, won't be remembered. That we don't matter. We're an infinite number of cells here for a finite amount of time and all our useless attempts at rhapsodising our existence don't matter. There is no meaning, there is no point the darkness says when we're over-whelmed by self-doubt, by uncertainty of ourselves and the world around us.

For a film that plays with art in its various forms - from that which is done before an audience to the art of living we all commit to on a daily basis - it creates a beautiful, haunting piece of art in doing so. And like all great art, if you allow it, Birdman will make you pause, however briefly, to examine your own life and neuroses, lay bare your fears and desires, and makes you consider that we might be alone, but we're alone together.

Mucho Love,

Vicky xoxo
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