Birdman Or (The Unexpected Vertigo Of One Seeming Take)

birdman floats

With Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) director  Alejandro G. Iñárritu seeks to examine, in a comedic “Noises off” way, the psyche of what it is to “act” – within a free flowing, fluid, seeming one-shot take that also touches on themes of validation, parenthood, criticism, stunt celebrity casting, virtues of stage vs screen, blockbusters vs “art”, and much more.

Wrapped within this set-up is the enigma of whether or not faded screen star Riggan Thomson (a superb Michael Keaton), he of the “Birdman” action films of the 1990’s (mirroring Keaton’s own seminal Batman run), who has written, directed and is starring in his own make or break Brioadway run of an adaptation of author Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, is slowly cracking under the pressure, or possessed of telekinetic powers. His imp of the perverse is his gruff Birdman persona, chiding and mocking him in his padded cell of a ratty dressing room.

The technical audacity of the film has obviously attracted a lot of attention, with the film gliding around and after the actors, then drifting off to follow a different scene, or sometimes revealing a new day, the cuts very cleverly hidden. The set (a real Broadway theatre, available for a two week stretch after Barry Manilow had finished a show there, was also used) organically grew around the action dictated by the words on the page, the actors often doing eight minute takes, sometimes traversing the labyrinthine corridors or out through fire doors, and so on. Lighting each scene was difficult – often the emotion and sometimes surreal nature of events dictated lighting choices. Cinematographer, Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki said:

“We were moving lights; we were moving diffusions. There were grips moving with me. Every time you see a shot, there were eight people moving with me. It was like a ballet — that’s what made it truly exciting.”

The drumming score was considered by him to be “like the heartbeat of the character — it helped the actors get in the mood and the camera to get the rhythm, We created the transitions by rehearsing; for the more difficult ones, we had to have visual effects.”

Below are two behind the scenes videos, and also a short peak at how those seamless transitions were achieved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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