Birdman and Magical Realism

When Birdman was awarded the Oscar for best picture this past Sunday, I was pleased. It was my favorite of the movies in contention. I saw Birdman last month, knowing very little about it beforehand other than that it is a comedy. As the movie opens, you know you’re in for an extraordinary ride. Michael Keaton, who plays a washed-up actor working at making a comeback, is floating in air. It didn’t take me long to realize that director Alejandro Inarritu employs magical realism in the telling of this tale of a man in search of redemption.

Magical realism is a literary technique that mixes elements of fantasy with what otherwise is a realistic story. However, it is not fantasy. It is a way of depicting how an individual might see the world, accepting that he or she sees it through a magical lens. Latin American authors, in particular, have used magical realism for years in their writings.

A good example of magical realism, and a good introduction, if one has never been exposed to the technique, is Victor Villasenor’s memoir, Burro Genius. While he uses magical realism in only a few sections of the book, it enhances the story and gives it a beautiful sense of wonder.

As for Birdman, it deserves all the accolades it has received. Such a creative work merits recognition.

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