Monday, August 2, 2021

Inside Bo Burham's Mind

Bo Burnham’s newest release Inside is one of the most unique pieces of media you’ll ever see. Netflix bills it as a comedy special, but it is definitely not that. “Whatever this is”, it’s equal parts introspective, funny, deep, awkward, catchy, disturbing, and sad. This is not a show for everyone. There are liberal doses of cursing, and topics that Bo covers include classism, capitalism, climate change … and “the other stuff”. But this is also a show that is unquestionably Bo. He did every aspect of this film himself, in his own room: wrote every word, sang every note, created every sound, conceived every idea, composed every shot, moved every light, zoomed every lens, edited every moment. This is all Bo. In one room. And the result is fascinating.

Bo called this film Inside, ostensibly referring to the fact that the Covid kept him quarantined inside his house. But the title Inside is also symbolic of being inside Bo’s mind. The room he’s stuck in is his mind. We are inside Bo’s mind as much as he is inside his own brain. We see the chaotic clutter alongside the intense organization. This mess plus structure equals Bo’s perfectionist creativity, and Inside gives us the best glimpse inside his artistry and mental health. Inside is a poioumenon that tells the story of a film’s creation, juxtaposed with the story of a man’s destruction. 

I have never seen a better depiction of what a year of lockdown feels like. Years from now when we tell our grandchildren about the pandemic of 2020, we will never really be able to fully express the grueling monotony or show future generations what it was really like to be quarantined for so long. Historians will look at art like Inside to create a full picture of the toll Covid took on all of us who were stuck in doors. 

On a personal level, my divorce took place during quarantine. My whole life evolved as the world changed. Like Bo, my mental health suffered, but I also grew and learned about who I was. I really related to the video game streaming bit where Bo had two main functions: cry, or find joy in playing piano. Or the surreal, clownish description of anxiety and depression in “All Time Low”. Or just the moment when Bo was lying on the ground surrounded by a tangle of cords and recording equipment, but still coherently expressing his concern for the younger generation. Inside tells the story of a man desperately trying to hold on to his sanity; the villain isn’t Covid, the antagonist is the Internet. 

Bo’s style of comedy and filmmaking won’t appeal to everybody. But this masterpiece definitely takes us Inside the mind of a person with crumbling mental health due to social isolation during quarantine.

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