Eccentric “Bardo,” For The Seasoned Eye

By Lupita Franco Peimbert

It was night and almost my bedtime when I decided to watch Alejandro G. Iñárritu “Bardo.” I thought Bardo was the name of the main character, but it wasn’t. Twenty-something minutes into it, it felt too heavy, too dark, and too complex as a bedtime story when one prefers to take it easy.

“Bardo” means the intermediate of the soul after death and before rebirth. “Bardo, A False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths” is a trip, no doubt. 

I stopped my Netflix and fell asleep.

Days later, I continued watching the rest of the 2 hours and 39 minutes film. I was being dragged on a story I couldn’t call something specific, but I knew it was a combination of depth, transition, traveling, discovery, and quite a bunch of details. 

Bardo’s cinematography is outstanding, often surprising you with new angles and points of view, literally. And it is full of double meanings. 

The color play is intense. The sound is unrealistic, and it is clear to me that this was the point. If we were to listen to all of what is said and heard in one real moment after another, we would either go crazy or learn to listen in multilevel modes, verse along with rhyme and noise together with reverberations and silence.

When the main character was in a street I recognized as Mexico City’s downtown, I felt that one needs to be Mexican to get the feelings shared in this part of the film. Same for the “Sube, Pelayo, Sube”; and the same for the dialogue between Silverio Gama, the main character, and Hernan Cortes, the Conquistador who cried under a tree on a sad night, as told by elementary school teachers in Mexico. 

As the title “Bardo, False Chronicles of a Handful of truths” suggests, certain scenes were clearly a message: a call for justice for victims of feminicidio, the arrogance of authorities who know what is going on, and the irrationality of those who think they know who can call the United States of America home and who does not, to name a few. 

With Bardo, Iñárritu presents a surreal, at times “pue digne de foi” story packaged as a work of art. Bizarre at its best and candid at its worst, Bardo intents to show what happens to a person as soon as they die, where they may go, what they may see, and how they may feel. But who knows?

And you realize the director is getting away with creativity when he geniusly changes the appearance of the main character —his body embodying the body of his youngest self. Not to mention the whole thing with his wife having an unborn child —I won’t spoil it for you. 

The main character is a man. It could have been a woman, or younger, or older. He was a journalist turned film director. It could have been an engineer, a chef, or a postman. 

This eccentric film has won several awards and has been nominated more than two dozen times, mostly for Best Cinematography to Darius Khondjland and Best Foreign Film Award, representing Mexico. 

The latest and most prestigious nomination is for Best Achievement in Cinematography by the Academy Awards, the Oscars. 

Alejandro Iñárruti is showing the world that Mexican Cinema has plenty of well-told stories to show. Bardo is not for the common spectator but for one with a certain level of maturity, not just in terms of film or culture but in life. 

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