I saw Birdman this week. Halfway through the movie, I thought, “Sad-dad guilt? Muted colors? Ghostly figures and secrets? Mental illness as the crux of a failed relationship? This feels a lot like Biutiful.” And then, of course, when the film ended, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s name floated onto the screen, and I felt both affirmed and also really, really pretentious.
I’m glad I hadn’t done any research beforehand, because Iñárritu’s films, in my very limited experience, are best taken in without preconceived notions. It’s most exciting to watch a film like Birdman or Biutiful while wondering at every step, “Is this guy going to be okay? How not-okay are we talking here? Murderer not okay? Suicide not okay?”
In both films, Iñárritu defines madness as a person’s inability to make sense of external stimuli, which results in hallucinations, nightmares, or some magical-realistic blend of the two. As both films progress, the otherworldly images experienced only by the protagonist begin to seep into film’s surrounding reality, and the line between real and imagined is blurred. Also in both films, the male protagonist’s daughter either inherits her father’s madness in the final moments of the film, or else comes to understand it in a simple, but jarring, way.