The Unexpected Virtue of Knowledge


It all started with a very spirited debate at work where while some outrightly wrote off Birdman, others hailed it to be the best movie of our times!

I agree with neither of the above thoughts. But the beauty of the industry today is that there is one movie for every viewer.

Birdman is not an easy watch for everyone. It is cynical and pokes fun at everybody who has ever overthought things in life. Funny enough, in an attempt to point cynically at the theatre and art scene in New York, the movie is also very cynical about itself. It perhaps is not really a true representation of humanity like Boyhood and probably doesn’t tell a story worth telling like in the Theory of Everything. Instead it celebrates mediocrity and hails it as heroism.

Individual performances have been, of course, the highlight of the movie. Micheal Keaton has indeed acted out of his skin. But one does stop to wonder that the director chose him (and not the more successful contemporaries) to drive home the idea of a washed up super hero trying to make a comeback. A comeback he did make! With an Oscar in the tow his Birdman story perhaps ends better than his character.

Ed Norton impressed in the small role, but by now he has raised the bar too high to do cameos like these, I kept wanting to see more from him. For me the highlights of the movie apart from the depth of the story were the performances by Emma Stone and Zack Galifianakis. They manage to extract the individual complexities of their characters without taking away the story.

It is very easy for people to say that Oscar tag should automatically make the movie likeable. It takes away credit from the director. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has, with Birdman, introduced a new method, one where the star cast is overshadowed by the beauty and the complexity of the story itself.

The turning point of the movie (SPOILER ALERT!!!) came a tad bit too late when the review of Riggan Thomson’s play was titled “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance”. How someone without an ability to create greatness, managed to do the same without any knowledge of it.

Alejandro has, in essence, successfully delivered an elaborate joke at the end of which we might become better human beings! There are people who have unconditionally loved this film or those who have hated it with inexplicable rage. It all depends on which Riggan Thomson you are, the one who takes a leap of faith and falls like Icarus or the one who gives up and disappears at the end of a night after mouthing off to a famous critic.

In my mind, he dies a lovely, befitting death, one that embraces his mediocrity and laughs at his perceived greatness. In someone else’s mind, he perhaps is the senile pathetic old man who couldn’t stay sane. It depends on whether you embrace his ignorance and allow it to melt into your own innate knowledge or simply discard it like a cynic and wait for a delusional miracle that will put his life back on track.

Love it or hate it, you just couldn’t ignore it. I haven’t come across a person who wrote off the movie as just another story in Hollywood. Alejandro, as an outsider to Hollywood, has maintained his distance from the obvious and challenged everyone in the audience to do so as well. If you haven’t seen it, you truly have missed a good laugh and a wry smile.

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