Think Pieces: Improvisation and Birdman; or, the Unexpected Virtue of Irony

Think pieces is a special project curated by PhD student Mark Kaethler.

In this piece, Mark Kaethler delineates the different levels in which improvisation works in the Academy Award-winning filmBirdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), and relates improvisation as performance practice to the film’s depiction of creativity, of whiteness, and of the artist’s place in society. Staged and edited so that it seems to have been done in a single extended take, Birdman’s director and co-screenwriter Alejandro González Iñárritu plays with cherished cinematic tropes, including surprising shifts between diegetic and non-diegetic music. Kaethler concludes, “Birdman challenges the hegemony of Hollywood and white America through recourse to improvisation’s radical and fluid recalcitrance to concepts of the individual genius.”

Mark Kaethler is a PhD candidate in the School of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Guelph, studying politics and irony in the works of early modern dramatist Thomas Middleton.

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