Birdman 2014: The Disorderly Fashion Of Fame And Its Obsession

Birdman 2014 is a dark comedy directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu starring Michael Keaton in the titular role. The cast also stars Zach Galifianakis, Andrea Riseborough, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, and Emma Stone. The film revolves around the life of a has-been Hollywood actor; named Riggan Thompson. Riggan is depicted as a well-known actor during his young runtimes and his shot to fame is playing the superhero, Birdman. In the movie, Michael Keaton tries to re-establish himself as an actor by starring as himself in a Broadway play that he wrote. The film showcases the actor’s struggle to juggle his quest of finding relevance as an actor and the mammoth task of directing a play.

Birdman 2014 won several accolades at the Telluride and Venice film festivals. It was also able to secure the much-coveted closing-night spot at the New York festival. The narrative is very complex and the technique used is often audacious. The film runs a meta-commentary that oversees how fame leads to pitfalls, an inflated ego, and ambition. However, Michael Keaton manages to deliver a role that is in all formats2014 the best of his career.

Opening scene from Birdman 2014 shows Riggan in meditation
The opening scene from Birdman 2014 shows Riggan in meditation

The ‘flight’ for survival in Birdman 2014

The Kunstlerroman of Michael Keaton’s Riggan Thompson is over. Riggan is fighting in order to get in relevance with the times he is living in. The character is unable to accept the fact that his time has gone. In addition to this, Keaton’s character has a very convoluted idea of fame in the 21st century.

Emma Stone (Sam) plays a junkie who is the daughter of Riggan Thompson. Sam tells her father that he is unable to create an identity in the evolutionary realm of human communication and existence which is social media. She also informs him that this is the sole reason for his failure to remain pertinent in the digital age. As the film unfolds Riggan’s life is segregated into more complexities. The star of yester-year not only tries to push himself as a contemporary but also constantly seeks validation for his present and past work. The schism takes effect when he develops the alter ego of Birdman. Birdman plays the role of a critic who reminds Riggan of his former glory and lost fame. Birdman looms as a haunting voice of the past right by Riggan throughout the film.

The nature of man is to do something completely of his own and make a name for himself in the mundane world. They strive to make one’s existence matter is a motif that Riggan wakes up to. The point is to be the greatest entertainer the world has seen. The innate desire for each individual to be famous and wanted.

Riggan acting in a stage play of his own direction
Riggan acting in a stage play of his own direction

A Beverley Hills Satire

One must understand that Birdman is a satire and a continual laceration of the tinsel crested life of Hollywood stars. It is a mock of the pecking order and the narcissistic lifestyle of celebrities. The desire for approval and relevance is the crux of the movie. It is symbolic of the event in one’s life where one has run out of ways to reinvent himself and therefore desires to force acceptance through theatrics.

There is a pile of cheeky references of various actors and incidents laid throughout the film. Even a drug-dosed Riggan‘s daughter (Sam) exclaims ” You don’t even have a Facebook page!” to her dad. She further follows it up by saying “It’s like you don’t exist.” Social media plays a very important character in the film as well. The camera work is very avante-garde and has been used to represent the fragmentation in the life of Riggan. These outtakes are the very common happenings of the inside story in Hollywood. Riggan is a metaphoric animal of the actual entities that spend decades as so-called greatest movie stars of Hollywood and then abruptly fade away.

Riggan tries to gain acceptance by writing his own play and directing in it. Sam, his daughter comes to support him as his aid and is also a pothead and a junkie… She is a ‘floating’ teen who has a semi-romantic rendezvous with Edward Norton‘s Mark Shiner who acts in Riggan’s play.

Riggan looks onto a Birdman poster reminiscing his role.
Riggan looks onto a Birdman poster reminiscing his role.

An autobiography of Michael Keaton’s life

Birdman is a film that is completely academic to the film critique. It is a form of textbook and referral for graduate students of film schools. The intertextual themes run deep through every character of the movie. The impossible similarity is its iconic semblance to Keaton’s career graph. Michael Keaton starred as ‘Batman’ in Tim Burton’s classic take on the comic book in the year 1989. Keaton again returned for a sequel in 1992 “Batman Returns“. The third film of this trilogy was stopped while production and this was due to uncannily similar incidents that happened backstage. What followed in Keaton’s career was a decade of struggle in finding better roles in Hollywood movies.

Very similar to the fall of Riggan in the film; he faded from the limelight with rumors of him having conducted an exile from his movie career.

Innaritu has cleverly incorporated a metatextual layer in the scenes where Birdman is the voice of Riggan’s inner monologue. The superhero is personified with ego and pride and his every delivery is an attempt to encourage and alleviate himself of Riggan’s present condition.

“People, they love blood. They love action. Not this talky, depressing, philosophical bullshit,” –

Birdman, Birdman 2014

Riggan walks by the pavement as Birdman narrates his internal monologues.
Riggan walks by the pavement as Birdman narrates his internal monologues.

Susmit Basu

From a young age Susmit has held a passion for storytelling, movies and literature. He believes cinema is the beginning of thought and a perfect tool for sociocultural change. Here at Cinema Monogatari he analyses and dissects all that passes under his panoramic vision.

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