I will let you into a secret, which no one knows. I have flown. I don't mean in an airplane. I mean - like a bird. There were undulating hills. I must have been seven or eight. And the wind was strong and high, and I was left alone by adults, relieved to find me happy in my aloneness. And there was space to run. Which I did. I was small, I was light. And the winds caught me, and raised me high above. And I flew. For many many seconds. And I did it again and again, for longer and longer periods. Over the grass, and the shrubs and the long stalks of wildflowers. I've never mentioned it, because no one would believe me. It was a high point, literally and figuratively.
I know exactly how the Birdman found his flight. And his meaning.
But there's a BC and an AD to everything. The movie, Birdman, talks about the AD of glory. A huge star, Riggan, is in the last eddie of life. And he is seeking connection - with his family. And significance - in theatre. And his life revolves around that search.
The theatre hall is claustrophobic but it is also the place where he hopes to find his epiphany. The camera prowls through the narrow passageways of the old theatre, the way electric signals move through the nerves in our hearts and minds, seeking life and, more importantly, purpose for life. Because what does a man do when today's reality is washed out and yesterday's glory looks increasingly illusory?
And Riggan's choice of play, an adaptation of a Raymond Carver story, is not random, because Carver finds infinity in the minutiae of love and life. And he knows, deep down, that seeking relevance ultimately starts from asking questions and seeking answers of oneself. But the journey, ah, that's another matter. It is fraught with breaking heads, breaking hearts, and finally, literally cutting/shooting off one's nose. It's an action which is rich in metaphor. Riggan gets a new nose - totally unbeautiful. But he gets his flight back too.
In these last few months of totally terrific films, there has been none with the layers and magic and art of Birdman - and the consummate craftsmanship.
The camera is both a seeker and a surgeon. The music is both a companion and a creator. The acting is an amalgam of regrets, realizations and resurrections. And the director breaks the characters and lets them reassemble themselves, until they find themselves anew, however imperfect that might be.
Life's triumphs are glorious. But in an Inarritu film, life's defeats can only lead to something triumphant.