How Birdman's Absurd, Impossible Sense of Geography Makes It a Better Film

Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel & More Screenplays For Your Consideration
They physical layout of Birdman's many interconnected sets makes absolutely zero sense, and yet simultaneously, it makes perfect sense.

For those of you who haven't seen the film yet (what the hell are you waiting for?!), Birdman takes us inside the life, mind, and borderline psychosis of Riggan Thompson, a washed-up movie star mounting a Broadway production in a last ditch effort to revive his career. But of course, it's more than that. It's a first person look into the heart of madness, and the film is full of stylistic devices which clue us into that. The inconsistency and seeming impossibility of physical space is one of those devices.

In a stellar video essay from De Filmkrant, Joost Broeren and Sander Spies delve deep into how these spatial inconsistencies inform the audience of and intertwine them with Riggan's madness.

It's hard to say for sure whether Birdman's outrageous and confusing use of space was born out of an artistic desire to clue the audience into Riggan's internal state of being, or whether it was simply born out of the fact that the film was shot on a number of different sets over the course of several months and then stitched together in post. Honestly, the latter seems more likely. But the fact remains that these inconsistencies work, and they work well. They undeniably benefit the film because they reflect and build upon the subtext that is already present.

It's safe to say that Birdman might not be as rich of an experience if the physical layout of the sets had been made to be less confusing. But that begs the question, even if this was done unintentionally, was it really a mistake?     

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Your Comment


The sense of geography is not the only confusing element in this picture. We all seem to accept that, because all is contributing towards a concept, we seem to be aware of when watching.
E.g. the moving objects in his room, seemingly induced by the birdman or is it the actor/producer of the play. We do not know. This ambiguaty continues in the aerial scenes, where it looks the actor/producer is going to commit suicide, but he then flies gratiously in the sky having conversations as well as birdman.
Who is this guy? ; )

Great film, nice contribution by Filmkrant.

April 5, 2015 at 1:38AM, Edited April 5, 1:38AM


"Only the person who's made the movie knows what goes into the decisions that result in any piece of work. They can be anything from budget requirements to divine inspiration" - Sidney Lumet

"The mistakes is what makes it personal" - David Fincher

In that sense, we really never do know the intention of the true director, but the intentions that we perceive from our own worldview.

Nice blog man.

April 5, 2015 at 7:28PM

Minh Hang

Great video essay!!

April 7, 2015 at 1:44PM

Anthony F. Moorman
freelance director/producer/grip/editor/writer