Although there's relatively little that could properly follow the sad
and shameful preceding page, there is often a link between atrocious fact and aspiring fiction, in cases where over officious, intransigence produces fatal consequences, for example.
It could be the fifth time of seeing Birdy on TV a few days ago, yet to me it's still as fresh and as moving as the first viewing. In fact it seems to have had more of a positive impact on me than ever, hence this little tribute.
Superbly written as is Miloš Forman's One flew out of the Cuckoo's nest with an inspired Jack Nicholson (1975). Forman's film also portrays the fatal effects, the terrible consequences of the establishment's persistent use of cruel, counter-productive methods to crush and subjugate. The same applies for the film Instinct directed by Jon Turteitaub with magistral Anthony Hopkins.
For Birdy, Peter Gabriel wrote and performed the film's music sound track in what must have then been considered revolutionary sound technology (Fairlight CMI llx).
Acute and sensitive observation. The word 'effects' would be out of place regarding this film directed by Alan Parker (1984), because it's such a brilliant study in human nature at its best- and worst, and also animal nature, instinctive as well as what seems exceptional, yet such 'exceptional' animal behaviour isn't as rare as one might think. The synthesis of love, admiration and complicity between Birdy (Matthew Modine) and his favourite, female canary is really convincing, even to a sensuous degree. Birdy ends up of course, by totally identifying himself with birds.
The scenes such as that of the cat surreptitiously climbing the stairs and entering the open bedroom door before being seen with the canary between its fangs, then the canary's rescue and resuscitation by Birdy are outstanding.
The same goes for the scene when Al (Nicholas Cage) leaves for Vietnam, and simultaneously the canary flies from Birdy's bedroom out through the small gap under the jammed window, as if it wants to reseal their friendship. Then when the canary tries to return, despite Birdy's waving warnings and desperately trying to open the window, the bird smashes into the pane breaking its neck and dying instantly.
The earlier scene of Birdy's attempt to fly is diverting as well as impressive, but surely the most wonderful scenes of all are those performed by Nicholas Cage and Matthew Modine, both traumatised by their respective Vietnam experiences, and each reacting in his own way. Al, seriously wounded, badly needing his friend whom he has always admired, cherished and never lost faith in, literally ends up fighting his superior to recall to reality, save and free Birdy from the military mental hospital. And in doing so he also frees himself.
With the fabulous concluding scene and succinct last word of Birdy, puzzled as he looks up at his friend after having made what had seemed to be a final, fatal, flying leap to freedom. 'What ?..'
A most moving story of love and loyalty, and in my view a film for the 'timeless master-piece list'.
Birdy received the Grand Prize of the Jury at the 1985 Cannes Film Festival.
Robert Ebert awarded the film four stars out of four.
Text © Mirino. Image © Tristar Pictures, 1984 (graphic arrangement with title by M).