Birdman is the story of a, once upon a time, über-succesful actor/superhero who decides to reshuffle his career by directing, producing, writing and performing in an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s ‘What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Love?’. It is there where a sudden career change becomes a cataclysmic metamorphosis where boundaries and dimensions collapse into self knowledge. The fact that the main character is played by Michael Keaton is in itself a ‘mise-en-abîme’ due to the fact that Michael Keaton is in real life a former mega successful actor playing a superhero. This conflation of fiction and real life is signalised in the opening scene where Keaton/Birdman is shown levitating in his own camerino. The suspension of disbelief cannot wait to the stage and we start asking ourselves whether Keaton /Birdman is an actor, the actual superhero or one of us day dreaming. Although, through the film, Keaton/Birdman struggles to forge his own artistic identit, the truth is that he is an addict. With an alcoholic father and a daughter in rehab, Keaton/Birdman is self obsessed to the point of self addiction. In times of Instagram and Twitter, this is already an addiction we share.  In a world where the number of retweets is the parameter against which power and influence are benchmarked, Birdman is, definitely, one of us.  What is there left for those of us who refuse to reduce the public sphere to a series of carefully selected pictures and phrases below a certain number of characters? Suicide? The film’s answer to this question is a full blown ‘maybe’. To be honest, the question that it asks itself is which is the true form of suicide? Isn’t crazily pursuing that that does not really matter the most effective form of suicide? Self-centered and self-obsessed, Birdman likes to isolate himself from  the world but especially from his daughter and his wife, who had just abandoned him. And this is the reason why, even though her daughter is in rehab, he transforms the Carver piece into his own rehab. The issue with this is that, like any other human endeavour, it demands the participation of other human beings who, by definition, are as insecure and incomplete as he is. Rehab is never an easy task and can certainly kill you. Birdman, as a film, seems to say that overcoming self centeredness entails redefining our relationship with others and pondering whether the material world is a place where it is worth living. oscar-birdman The film’s two wonderful Argentine script writers, Armando Bo and Nicolas Giacobone (who won the Oscar for this job) create a group of characters that evolve to the point of ironic destruction.  This is not surprising if we bear in mind that Keaton/Birdman plays a stereotype that has the courage to become a full blown human being. The Bird in the Man becomes an allegory of both those who want to fly beyond their reach (Icarus) and those who find ways to fly even without wings. The myth of the Phoenix is deployed as an allegory of art as a human way of achieving immortalilty. Birdman, Icarus and the Pheonix are different sides of the same insecure human being. They are responses to fear and are precisely these fears that emerge with violence during the three days of rehearsal. It is the before opening night, that Birdman’s Oscar winning scriptwriters use as the real stage in which real people reassess their role in real life. It is then when the ‘serious’ actor played by Edward Norton realises that he can only feel (and have a life) when onstage. Can such a man be the conveyor of artistry? This is also the case of her actress (girl)friend played by Naomi Watts insisting on asking for approval no matter what.  It is also there where the protagonist’s daughter realises that her thirst for adrenaline (and drugs) is linked to her need to numb her excellence for fear of love. Through this catalogue of insecure and fearful characters that Birdman states that love can only exist where there is vulnerability. alejandro-gonzalez-inarritu-620x350 This film thematise, then, vulnerability as a virtue. This is something exceptional coming from three very successful hispanic artists (the director is a Spaniard and the script writers are both from Argentina) in the Hollywood system which is characterised by using Latinamerica as a proxy for representing anglosaxon values through its counter-examples.   In Birdman, weakness is not a Latino flaw but a Latinised virtue. Refusing to represent themselves as weak, lazy, exotic and as people who leave business for ‘Mañana, Mañana’, they transform the whole Birdman experience into one where the underdog is the one who knows.  The character of the critic of the New York Times is particularly interesting because it shows the narrow-mindedness of the so called ‘cultural elite’ which only seems to function if critic and artists develop a friendship that prevents the former from being impartial and constructive. The artists’ fear to show themselves as weak created super prestigious critics which opinions are made to measure for those who do not want to grow. Amazing film. J A T