Reflection on Birdman and the reality and/of art

Naomi Watts in Birdman
Winner of four Oscars, and some of my favourite actors in it (Edward Norton, Naomi Watts). Enough to go and watch this film, right? Or perhaps it is the subtitle of the film that made me go and see it… In any case a movie that is worth watching: “Birdman: or the unexpected virtue of ignorance“. A reflection without any spoilers.


I try to go and see plays as often as I can, and fortunately we live in a time this is (still) possible. Independent of the level of the piece, one of the things that always seems to get to me, has to do with the audience. The dutch audience stands up afterwards, and claps for a long time, no matter how good the piece was. Which is silly, as how to differentiate your experiences if your reaction is always the same? But okay, this I can manage.
What really does upset me is the moments the lights come back on, that you find yourself amidst a whole group of people who have just been shown the same material, have in a certain way had the opportunity to experience the same thing. And when the lights come on, they look at each other, and tell the other what they felt or thought about the piece. Most often only using one word, or one sentence. An hour, three hours, summarized into 140 characters. And after this exchange of tweets – to each other and to their phones – normal life kicks in. Which tram will they use to get home, what will they get for breakfast tomorrow morning.

Experiencing reality

This is what the film ‘Birdman’ is all about. Maybe the story is about a whole lot of other things (as well) – I’ll let you decide that for yourself. For me this film is about the shock you experience again and again while moving away from an experience of art, of something treal, something that goes beyond an everyday experience. Something which is possible to experience in many different ways, in different positions – something which this films shows excellently: as writer, creator, actor, audience, lover, child, unknowing passer-by.
This experience, of art and the level of intensity to which it opens you, makes that it isn’t easy to ‘get back’ to whatever was before that experience, the person you were, the person you are expected to be. Because when are we still allowed or expected to change ourselves by a little bit of art? Catharsis, the experience of art as something sacred, something more than the mundane, let’s leave that to the old Greeks – right?

But still…

Still I would like to stand up for the search of that kind of experience. Even if you will be told off, that you’re not of this age, that you don’t really exist because you don’t do what is expected of you. Birdman shows the validity of these arguments, in a beautiful discussion by Emma Stone (see picture below). Which doesn’t mean we need to follow this logic.

Perhaps it’s fine if you don’t exist in that manner. That ‘virtue of ignorance’ is perhaps what makes it possible not to be overtaken by the everydayness. Which perhaps makes it possible to be present in reality, in a reality that is much more present that the present of the everyday. In a way. Perhaps.
I’m also not sure. Yet. But let’s at least stop the clapping and talking after the end of a film, a theatre piece, or any type of art. Let’s be quiet, like an eternal quietness, to remain in the presence of reality.
Images: © 2014 – Fox Searchlight.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *