This week’s Movie Fight was chosen by @thefilm.blog, give that page a follow on Instagram, or check out his blog right here! To be the person who chooses next week’s Fight and gets a shoutout, comment your vote for this week’s challenge on my Instagram post! Which is your favorite, Birdman or The Revenant?
These films were chosen because they were both directed by Alejandro G. Ińárritu, and they were both considered one of the best films of their respective release year. For me, I had to see the films twice to fully understand and appreciate them because there’s a lot more to them than one would assume, and there’s a lot more to them than most other films. In Birdman, that aspect is most certainly the ending, which has been interpreted many different ways. One of the more amazing aspects of the film is without a doubt, and probably the most notable aspect: the cinematography. You can’t watch this film without realizing that it’s meant to look like a single, fluid shot. Not only does it just look impressive, but the effect of this is breathtaking… in the literal sense as this movie doesn’t give you time to catch your breath; the entire film goes in real-time and is extremely fast-paced because of it. We’re in Riggan’s shoes and we experience everything that he does, including the disorienting stress of having to get everything done in a matter of minutes. It’s a great film because of not only how it’s made, but how open to interpretation it is; there’s so much to study and unpack that it’s impossible to fully understand the film (correctly).
Back to the ending: the best explanation that I’ve found is (full of SPOILERS obviously) that Riggan Thomson’s character, in his depressed rage, kills himself. We see earlier in the film that he attempts to shoot himself on stage, but fails in actually taking his own life. It’s assumed that this may be because he doesn’t think he can act very well (and get great reviews) unless he pushes himself as far as humanly possible, but in reality, he had just already given up hope and decided to die. When that doesn’t work, he hops out of the window, and we hear sirens. His daughter then looks down on the ground, but then looks up and smiles. Many people thought that this was because he flew away instead of died, but let’s go a more non-sci-fi approach and just write it off as “drugs.” On the other hand, one could say that this is a fantastical ending, aligning with some of the film’s earlier themes and scenes, but I’d say that being in the mind of a man who is losing his grip would allow for sequences that seem fantastical, and actually aren’t. There are many takes on the ending, as well as the rest of the film, and it’s up to interpretation so there are no wrong (or right…) answers!
The Revenant doesn’t have that indeterminate ambiguity with the ending, but there are many themes throughout that dive into the deeper meaning of the story. As Birdman is (at it’s heart) a story of a man trying to turn his life around, The Revenant is more of a simple revenge tale. Man against nature is a huge theme, but this film is much more straight-forward than Birdman is. The aspect of both films that stand out is easily the cinematography; in this film, we have long shots reminiscent of Birdman, or Atonement, and then just absolutely breath-taking shots of snow, trees, mountains and other landscapes. The Revenant definitely delivers more jaw-dropping shots than Birdman did, and this film is much easier to watch, as a viewer.
There really isn’t a whole lot of (obvious) aspects to unpack as the story is fairly simple aside from the flashbacks and images with the wife. If I had to analyze that aspect, I’d say that the wife is the only woman that I remember seeing in the film, and every other character is a male. The movie is also extremely graphic and violent as if those two elements are related in some way. Maybe the idea of the woman and mother nature are one in the same; man’s predisposition to resort to violence against nature and other men are why Glass’ wife is dead (seeing how she was killed by men). This film may be a commentary on why violence is a terrible thing as it destroys what is pure, being nature (and the only woman in the film). I’m not sure, though, but I do think that all of the hidden themes in The Revenant are much more subtle, and therefore more rewarding to discover. Plus, it’s just one hell of an epic film to watch.
My favorite of the two? That is a tricky one. I’m immediately urging to say The Revenant, but there are a lot of aspects of each that I respect more than the other. I do think, however, that Birdman is a more enjoyable film to watch, but I love watching The Revenant as it’s gorgeous and thrilling. So, I’ll vote The Revenant, but not by much! What about you? Which one would you pick and why? I didn’t mention the performances in either film, but they are exceptional as well. As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon!