Homage to Raymond Carver in The Award-Winning Film
Written by (作者): Agnes Tong 童安然
Photos by (图片来源): BigStock
Alejandro González I?árritu, the director and screenwriter of Birdman, must be a huge fan of Raymond Carver’s writing. His mark is everywhere in the film, from the opening monologue to the interactions, all leading up to the end of the film. Titles and quotes were adapted from one of Carver’s short stories. The whole story makes the viewer wonder, what does love got to do with it? Like the unprecedented revelations in Nymphomaniac, “the secret ingredient of sex is love.” I believe when it comes to Birdman, love is multifaceted in its bare mockery of the ego and self-obsessed isolation.
Birdman, or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) starring Michael Keaton, Zach Galifianakis, Edward Norton, Andrea Risenborough, Amy Ryan, Emma Stone and Naomi Watts, follows the exploits of washed-up Hollywood actor Riggan Thomson’s (Keaton) attempts at directing, producing and starring in a Broadway adaptation of Carver’s short-story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”
One of the more impressive features of the film is its incorporation of long-track shots, which work to show more veracity. The camera follows all the characters, trembling along with the drumming background music. It’s rough and it’s real. No close-ups, slow motion or other omniscient cinematography trying to imply anything. The audience gets a close-up observation of human interaction, with all the pretentiousness, apathy, greed and lack of love the characters exhibit.
There is something interesting about the methods the film uses to depict distance between people. They want to be heard but reject listening to others. Throughout the film, there is no shot of two people having a real conversation. They are either scolding or teasing one-another, or one character has their back turned while the other makes desperate claims. On the other hand, the film looks at the desperate attempts people to go to for recognition. Lesley (Watts) states in one scene “I’m still a little girl, waiting for someone to tell me I’ve made it.”
Perhaps the most important part of the film happens near the end. In the play, an old couple end up in the hospital after a car accident. The man, covered in bandages, is not upset because he broke his neck, but rather that he cannot turn to look at his wife. This is paralleled with Riggan’s attempt to smell some flowers after shooting his nose off in the final act. He tries in vain to get a whiff but nothing comes but overwhelming helplessness. I?árritu seems to be saying that you never know what you truly have until its gone, that you shouldn’t wait until you lose an arm, a leg or the boldness to love before aging with the spectre of regret.
There are many differing perspectives that can be taken from Birdman due to its sophisticated storytelling, but the look at the darker side of human interaction is one of the most, if not the most, important aspect of the film. It’s Dadaist satire and tongue-in-cheek deconstruction of pop culture is the backdrop for a story of individuals who don’t understand love, the deepest of human emotions.