For this post, I would have liked Sanchez to follow me.
With sticks and toms and all that brass…
Just like Panza.
And his Don.
For what else is Birdman if not a Quixote of sorts? Who else could be more virtuous in exercising his ignorance than Don Quixote?
This movie took me by surprise. I heard people talking about it but I refrained from reading anything beforehand. Those long takes, the wide-angle close-up shots, the music… they all took me aback. Real and surreal at the same time. Here and there and now and then and loud and quiet and funny and dark…
Death, cultural legacy and cultural significance, a fear of having nothing to say to the world or of not being able to say anything, an all-encompassing anxiety each time one scrutinizes oneself are the sort of ideas often present and closely investigated by Inarritu’s movies. Birdman is not (why should it be?) any different. Riggan dwells in two worlds simultaneously: ours and a world of superheros, to which only he has access and which is, quite often, not a tranquil place. Except for the scene at the very beginning (where he seems to levitate) and for a “flying through NY in the good tradition of the Birdman” scene, there is mostly violence, broken furniture, a giant mechanical bird jumping on the roofs of buildings and squashing helicopters, a menacing baritonal voice pushing Riggan to choose. Yes, choose. He could have the whole world at his feet if he would go the Birdman way. Why does he need all the trouble he puts himself through with staging a play? He could have action, he could be a hero. Why not? What is there to lose?
Love, that’s what it is! The play talks about love. Riggan only wanted to be loved.
He was loved as Birdman, true. But was that all he could be? A character in a superhero franchise? That’s easy to love. Wasn’t he an actor too? And a writer? And a director? What about a father? Was he loved as a father? Did he find any love as a husband? Staging the play, he tried to be good, he tried to matter as a human being, not only as an image of a superhero.
His wife seems to have a special place for him, even if that place is also charged with fear. His daughter, I would think, is his image more than one would suspect at first. Spending time on the roof of the theater, wanting to be not only a daughter or an assistant, twitting on his behalf (only once, for first and last time), screwing Mike just because.
And then her looking up in that last scene, even if one could take it as a message of hope, testifying to the real superhero powers of the Birdman, it might just as well be a sign that she received the baton and she has started her own quirky race. Perhaps she’ll be even more quixotic than her father. After all, she’s always asked for “dare” in the “truth or dare” game. Never truth. Truth is so pettily predictable, isn’t it?
Thus, you are left on your own in the end and you can choose whichever conclusion you wish. Magical realism? Perhaps. But don’t forget the failures! Hope? Perhaps, as there is also a crushing evidence to the contrary.
Truth or dare, Don Quixote?
Certainly not truth!
But then… what if… he is already dead? What if he shot himself and what we see as the closing scene are only his terminus thoughts, à la Tobias Wolff’s Bullet in the brain? What if the Birdman won in the end, but only by sacrificing Riggan, all for a flash life, a few nanoseconds long?