Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Inarritu, 2014)


With a theatrical presence bolstered by long take, wide-angle cinematography, the disheveled is renewed vis-a-vis the ultimate rejection of intellectual thought,critical inquiry, labels and slogans—i.e. the rejection of bullshit. A social satire directed at the superficial nature of show business, Birdman (2014) sincerely and philosophically considers the detrimental effects not only of being in the spotlight but of observing the spotlight. It thus forms a conscious reading of the disconnected space between subject and object—audience and theater, critic and actor, sight and sighted. In either position there is a degree of incommunicability.

“A thing is a thing, not what is said of a thing”

These words, never stated but posted on a mirror often shown in the film, subtly inform the viewer of Birdman’s agenda. To know a thing purely is to know it directly; to know of a thing through labels, through words, through head-space, is to know it indirectly, and thus to not know it at all. Words refer to things; they are not the things themselves. Language is inherently ironic, at all times. For this reason, one’s drive for recognition, fame, a positive reputation, and any other supposedly significant view from the outside, is a flawed human need. It’s an illusion of importance cultured by social imagination.

Inarritu uses Birdman’s play within a film to channel new forms of thinking: forms which are not easily reduced to labels, forms which are free of ego. By doing so, the film rejects the social imagination and seeks to escape it by freeing self via self-imposed ignorance, a virtue for a non-perfect being in a world festering with incongruities.

76/100 – Very Good.

3 Stars


About Kamran Ahmed

I have a Masters in Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto. I work as a freelance writer and film critic in Vancouver. My writing is primarily distributed through Next Projection, an online film journal based in Toronto.
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