“Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)“ encompassed 2014 and its awards season, taking home Oscars for Best Director (Alejandro González Iñárritu), Best Cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki), and Best Picture. The film is full of delightful madness; it has philosophical breakdowns, romance, drama, violence, and a bit of Raymond Chandler. The ensemble cast and emotionally intoxicating screenplay will leave you ever wanting more, but there’s one paramount element to “Birdman,” and that’s the editing.
Many referred to the film as a “single-shot,” though that is certainly not the case. The edits were perfectly hidden to let the film appear seamless; Iñárritu and Lubezki want you to think it’s one, very long take. Of course, knowing that the film is comprised of smaller takes doesn’t necessarily spoil your curiosity, in fact it’s all the more fascinating. Iñárritu modeled the editing style after a true master, Alfred Hitchcock. In Hitch’s 1948 (and first technicolor) thriller, “Rope,” there are no noticeable cuts, at least not to the naked eye. Limited to ten minute takes, the director found a way to hide any cuts, blending them with dark surroundings (Farley Granger’s back, the inside of a chest) and pick up where it left off once the new film was in place. Genius, of course, but who would expect less from Alfred? Iñárritu adopted a similar style for “Birdman,” hiding his cuts in obscure textures, open crowds, and more obvious places to trick the beholder.
In this video from The Film Theorists, via No Film School, you can learn more about the techniques of each director, and perhaps even be inspired to make a cleverly disguised short film of your own.