Learning to Fly


Deciphering the peculiar brilliance of Birdman

Appropriately enough the sensation I had whilst watching Birdman was that I was flying through the story. Director Alejandro González Iñárritu keeps the camera in near constant motion and apparently never cuts. This creates the impression of swooping, soaring, gliding and occasionally hovering around a Broadway theatre as a faded actor played by Michael Keaton tries to put on the vanity project he hopes will give him the prestige to escape the shadow of the superhero he once played. This style makes Birdman an exhilarating experience by amplifying the already abundant energy emanating from a cast of great actors giving big performances.

It’s not without drawbacks. Moving through the air perhaps allows for less precision than doing so on the ground. Things often become a blur: subplots get dropped and it can seem unreal even when Keaton’s character isn’t holding hallucinogenic conversations with his fictional alter ego. But in the end that was a trade off I was delighted with. Birdman is delightful, bracing and unlike any other film I’ve ever seen. That would make me willing to forgive far bigger flaws than it has. It’s one hell of a flight even if it’s not clear where it eventually lands.


P.S. that the photo illustrating this article is of Emma Stone and not Michael Keaton is a deliberate choice as I thought even amongst so many great performances hers stood out.

Up to now I’d only seen her in the new round of Spiderman films. While she’s one of their redeeming features but they don’t give her that great a showcase. Birdman does and I’m now really keen to see what she does next.


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