'Bo Burnham: Inside' shows absurdity and sensibility co-exist

The vivid visuals here elucidate Burnham’s ambition to exalt every frame, using the means at his disposition.

Published: 13th June 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th June 2021 04:26 PM   |  A+A-

Netflix’s Bo Burnham: Inside

Netflix’s Bo Burnham: Inside

Express News Service

It is hard to recall another piece of art that celebrates the precarious human psyche quite as Netflix’s Bo Burnham: Inside does, in its explorations of the theme of abandonment. Written, directed, shot, edited and performed by Bo Burnham in his house during the pandemic, it is a portrait of an artist wading through self-isolation, which, in turn, reflects our collective conscience. The aversion to physical confinement and the longing for freedom dot this 87-minute special, precipitating a roller coaster ride of intuitions, ranging from silly happiness to bleak introspection.

This special compares with yet another Burnham film, Make Happy—both open with songs about white men and share thematic elements like finding happiness in a grim world. However, as opposed to the 2016 comedy special though, Burnham’s definition of ‘the dark world’ has now evolved into a more human and visceral form. It withdraws from addressing wide-ranging conflicts like, say, the Palestine-Israel geopolitical tensions or racism. Instead, the menace is now replaced by detachment from the very world that continues to house these perils.

The vivid visuals here elucidate Burnham’s ambition to exalt every frame, using the means at his disposition. Images from a projector are put forth for a bewitching upshot. Be it an array of allusive emojis appearing on his face as he talks at length about sexual desires, or projecting a video—in which he is persuading people to dodge the idea of suicide—onto his chest, this film is straight from the heart, and the simplicity is often breathtaking. As is the often weird way of handling that simplicity.

At the same time, during certain stretches, Inside is an outright farce. Take the part in which Burnham spoofs the internet culture by reacting to his own song. The joke doesn’t end there. He then reacts to his reaction to his song. And then, goes on to react to his reaction of the reaction… you get the idea. Ludicrousness, yes, but he effortlessly manages to achieve the desired effect with this film.

Burnham has worked on the special for almost a year. At one point, he admits his reluctance to complete it, citing his fragile mental state and the contingency of adverse consequences should he run out of work. In that sense, the maker’s ulterior motive to perform and put Inside together is to seek healing, at a time when all of us are in need of inward comfort. It is a therapeutic experience like few other films.


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