It’s no secret ’round these parts that I’m a big fan of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman. I’ve written about it extensively.
But certainly the film has its detractors. Many declare it pretentious, meaningless, ego-fluffing material. And that’s their opinion to hold. On the other hand, I sort of see those same descriptors as being the exact characteristics of Riggan Thompson’s existence, and by extension, many of our existences as well.
And in that same vein of is it a feature or a bug, we have videos dealing with the “mistakes” of Birdman. There are a couple on YouTube that simply go through the list of things of continuity errors: Everything Wrong with Birdman in 8 Min or Less and the somewhat more professional-looking Every Fail in Birdman. Both of these treat the mistakes of the film just like they would treat the errors in a film like Furious 7–as proof of the less than perfect performance of crew members–as bugs.
But the Dutch magazine de Filmkrant has put together a convincing video essay explaining some of the bigger gaffes of Birdman as one of the many ways Iñárritu expresses the growing chaos of Riggan’s mind and perspective. In particular the essay focuses on spacial layout within the film and compares it with Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. In fact, he opens with a quote from a critical piece on The Shining:
“When a hack director makes a continuity error, it is taken as proof of incompetence. When a revered genius does the same, we wonder what they meant.”
While the video’s narrator does admit that some of these mistakes are the seams with which we can see the stitching together of the cuts which make the seeming continuous take, he says to ignore the potential meaning behind the strange layout of the theater is to miss the ways that the theater reflects (or plays havok on) Riggan’s state of mind, just like the Overlook Hotel reflects (or plays havok on) the mind of Jack Torrance.