A Brief and Rambling Reflection upon Watching “Birdman”

“A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing” — Birdman

The human mind’s all corridors and windows, each with a different (point of) view. We’ve our senses and we’ve our reason and then there’s a world out there — a world or reality? A reality or realities? — that we perceive and judge and change. Birdman takes us through these different corridors and windows and it tells us it is all true, each single bit of consciousness.

After all the philosophy I’ve read, I’ve never managed to worry or care much about what is real and what is true. You hear sentences like these everywhere: “this dream really felt real”, “that story is surreal”, and I can only think to myself: “give us a break”. We’re lucky enough (or unlucky, it doesn’t matter) to have a human brain, we might as well enjoy it’s capacity for pleasure, amazement, surrealism, fiction, creativity, lies… and truth.

Birdman opens doors to our mind’s potentials. It doesn’t lack much as a film (if anything). A solid piece from beginning to end, it is just “itself”. Unquestionable? Unbreakable? Most likely. Birdman is Birdman, not what is said of Birdman. So do not let any negative reviews influence you before you watch it, and I recommend you pay attention to the praise it has received — you might as well follow the positive vibes while you remain ignorant — although my suggestions have obviously no authority either. For all you know, I (like all reviewers and commentators) may not have watched the film, I could be lying with a certain interest in mind, trying to confuse you, or trying to enforce a discourse on you. The only thing you can do is watch the film and stick to your own judgements. Still, I needed to write what I liked about it.

Birdman provided me with the kind of aesthetic pleasure I get from literary works which play with metafiction in clever ways. The film makes good use of the possibilities offered by the cinematic art in its exploration of the irony involved in the dichotomy fiction/reality. The special effects scenes in the film, for example, become fascinating, while in the kind of films represented by the fictional super-hero blockbuster which inspires Birdman’s title they tend to feel superfluous and empty. I must also say I could have died of pleasure when the man playing the drums that had been the background “music” for some of the scenes appears in the film — thanks Alejandro.

The way in which the film plays with different layers of reality (or fiction) seems so appropriate for these postmodern times we are living, in which the virtual world has become part of our lives as if it was a “real” world, being put at the same level as the physical world. Our mind, the immaterial internet, the physical world, our fictional creations (film, theatre, literature) all have their own laws and their own truths. If we think about it, the processes we go through when we navigate from one of these worlds to another are incredibly complex, making us lose control of any perception of truth.

These processes are the corridors Birdman explores, and it does so with such fluidity and such speed that it doesn’t give us time to think about it. It just becomes part of your world while you’re watching it and you have to face it, suffer it and enjoy it. The thinking comes after we’ve seen it, once our brain ceases to be stunned.

If you long for such reflections, go and watch this magnificent film.