Bird People

Parallel Alienations, thoughts on “Bird People” (2014, France)

“Compare and contrast” is a great framing tool for essay writing. I rarely saw it implemented in films though, which is exactly how “Bird People”–a 2014 French film directed by Pascale Ferran–is built up. The movie is framed with an amazing opening scene and a redemptive closing one. The two, taken together, help create the meaning for the film. In the first few minutes, we can observe people commuting and hearing their inner thoughts. What we are really exposed to is how everyone lives in their own bubble, despite sharing physical space with others. The long sequence of few second thoughts are mostly just banalities, but together they make up a story about us people, who are different yet with similar concerns.

At the end of the film, we witness a simple, human encounter that questions and counterpoints the opening. The beginning suggested that we are all our own. Supporting this view the majority of the film is depicting two kinds of alienations. The end thought gave some hope: it is possible to overcome these negative socio-psychological issues if we are open to real human interactions and are capable of being present in the moment. 

The bulk of the film is made up of two, clearly delineated segments: first, we follow Gary, an American who is on a business trip in Paris, and halfway through the film we switch to Audrey, a maid at the hotel where Gary stays. (Spoilers ahead) Their personal stories are running parallel in many regards: they both feel entrapped in their lives without being aware of it. A minor episode of an unexpected encounter with a symbol of freedom triggers both of them to take a different path. Both require a leap of faith, in one case literally. I won’t share more of the story, so I could leave some reason for you to watch it.

A movie is, of course, not just a story it tells, but just as integral as to how it tells it. The clever use of windows, physical and virtual, play an important role in the visuals: looking through the windows on a train, going in and out of a hotel room window, and during a gut-wrenching conversation via skype peering through a window in a family home in a faraway country. Each of these plays a significant role. One of the highlights of the film was a spectacular fly-through over an otherwise boring Paris parking lot and its surroundings, while David Bowie’s “Major Tom” was playing. Another aspect of the film I really appreciated was its calming and appropriate music (by Béatrice Thiriet) and sound. The film was nominated in these categories for César Awards. These are just some random points of a coherent piece of artwork.

I enjoy movies that are not predictable, thus they challenge me. One thought kept intriguing me whether the two main characters even meet in the movie and if yes what will come out of it. I am happy to report that I couldn’t guess ahead what actually ended up happening. Go ahead, watch it for yourself if you are into slowly developing, slightly magical, beautifully shot in mundane setting movies that are balancing between being an art movie and a potentially commercially successful one.

I watched the movie courtesy of the “Institut français de Budapest” online, free cinema program. Two more movies are available for viewing till June 10, 2021, that were selected in the past for the Cannes Film Festival’s “A certain point of view” (Un Certain Regard) section.

Links

  • Watch it on Amazon Prime Video 
  • Facebook page, official site, IMDB summary: In an airport hotel on the outskirts of Paris, a Silicon Valley engineer abruptly chucks his job, breaks things off with his wife, and holes up in his room. Soon, fate draws him and a young French maid together.”
  • Trailer

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