Bardo (2022) by Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Returning to the Venice Film Festival eight years after Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu directs what is perhaps his most personal film with Bardo (or False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths), managing to find an almost miraculous balance between form and content , lyrical impetus and genuine desire to narrate.

Identity and visions

Seven years after the great Hollywood success of Revenant – Revenantthe perfect (and fruitful) vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar-winning ambitions, Alejandro González Iñárritu returns with this Bard (or False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths) in “his” Mexico, with what can be considered his most autobiographical film. The director returns, using the audience of the Venice Film Festival again, as he had already done in 2014 with Birdman; a work, the latter, of which this new work can be considered somewhat the ideal sequel, or in any case the continuation (and radicalization) of the discourse begun. The applause that accompanied the Venetian press screening of the film should not be misleading: in our view, in fact, Bard – let us avoid, by convention, from repeating the entire title – it will only deepen the gap between Iñárritu’s admirers and detractors, among those who love the poetics of the director, overflowing with visions and elaborate psychological digressions – often surreal – and who instead detects a good dose of cunning in this aesthetic system. Because this new film, telling (also) of the artist’s narcissism, and of a perennial crisis that derives from the contrast between aesthetic – and popular – needs and self-satisfaction, puts its finger precisely on the points that detractors often highlight. With awareness, but also with even more extreme and bulimic visions and suggestions.

A journey of (re)discovery

Bardo, Daniel Gimenez Cacho and Griselda Siciliani in a scene from the film
Bardo, Daniel Gimenez Cacho and Griselda Siciliani in a scene from the film by Alejandro G. Iñárritu

The plot of Bard is centered on the character of Silverio (played by Daniel Gimenez Cacho), Mexican documentary filmmaker and journalist who has long lived in the USA, who returns to his country to attend the screening of his latest documentary. Here, returning to the house he had lived in years before, but above all meeting old friends and colleagues, the man comes to terms with his story and with the steps that led him to where he was, between personal and work ghosts, the never elaborated trauma of a son who died a few hours after birth, and the accusations of having sold out his ethics to the new Yankee master.

Listen to “Diabolik, Ginko on the attack a textbook love at first sight” on Spreaker.

The man’s stay in his native country immediately takes on the tones of dreams, with the narration interspersed with visions and fragments of memories, between real and imaginary events, living and dead people, concrete places and others transfigured by the imagination. A homecoming through which Silverius he will have the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of his profession, on the complex of events (and belongings) that have forged his identity and on the ties that nevertheless resist, on the sense of guilt and on the possible ways of dealing with it. Or at least face them.

A filmed stream of consciousness

Bardo, Daniel Gimenez Cacho in a sequence of the film
Bardo, Daniel Gimenez Cacho in a sequence from the film by Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Having long since abandoned the composite plots made of micro-stories orchestrated by the games and joints of fate, Iñárritu here recovers the epic and wide-ranging that he had already shown he knows how to handle – albeit in his own way – in Revenantsbut transporting them to an almost intimate dimension. It seems a contradiction, but it is not: because inside the story and the biography of the protagonist Silverio (in which it is not difficult to see a singular alter ego of the director himself) there is the story of a life (and of many other similar ones), in addition to the ambition to represent art, the need to document and the need to lie and reconstruct; in addition, a reflection on ethics and the concept of integrity, as well as wide-ranging digressions on the history of Mexico and the complex and contradictory events that have shaped its identity. In this sense, if Birdman told the story of an individual in crisis and the dreamlike “escape” into a regretted past – however keeping the two dimensions almost always separate – Bard seems to want to break down the walls: Silverio’s journey has no continuity solutions between reality and dream, personal biography and political narrative, reconstruction of the past and its dreamy idealization. The events and visions overlap and fade into each other, while the film seems to follow, at times, more the “structure” of a filmed stream of consciousness than that of a classic story; a flow guided solely by the mental associations – more or less free – of a personal research that will become clearer in the course of the narration.

A precarious but fruitful balance

Bardo, Daniel Gimenez Cacho in a scene from the film
Bardo, Daniel Gimenez Cacho in a scene from the film by Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Iñárritu carries this forward with his usual elegant visual approach, made up of long and elaborate sequence shots capable of catching the eye, the latter characteristic taking on a surplus of intensity thanks to the dreamlike content of what is staged. Unlike what happened in the past, however, the director does not seem to be crushed by the form, finding in the three hours of Bard a synthesis perhaps not always very stable, at times precarious but nevertheless fruitful, between lyrical impetus and transport for one’s own visions, overflowing form and narrative clarity, visual flair (often in love with one’s own aesthetics: but this is not always a bad thing) and lucidity in the tale. He has already heard the comparison with the Fellinian Half past eight, for Iñárritu’s film, and obviously it is a juxtaposition to be taken with a grain of salt, and making the necessary proportions; but it is a fact that Bard represents, for the Mexican director, an at times disarming stripping, an operation that shows an honest soul and an urgent (and almost painful) search under the brilliance of the images and the ever-present formal elegance. And it doesn’t matter, in this sense, that the director treads his hand a bit in the last part, perhaps expanding the last (?) sequence a little too much, before closing the circle with a lot of Fellini-esque references. The result, however, is surprising and for the most part (in our opinion) positively striking.

Bardo, the Italian poster of the film


Original title: Bard
Director: Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Country/year: Mexico / 2022
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Cast: Daniel Giménez Cacho, Omar Leyva, Andrés Almeida, Clementina Guadarrama, Daniel Damuzi, Edison Ruíz, Grace Shen, Griselda Siciliani, Hugo Albores, Íker Sánchez Solano, Mar Carrera, Meteora Fontana, Misha Arias De La Cantolla, Ximena Lamadrid
Film script: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone
Photography: Darius Khondji
Music: Bryce Dessner
Producer: Stacy Perskie, Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Production House: Estudios Churubusco Azteca SA, Redrum
Distribution: Netflix, Lucky Red

Exit date: 16/11/2022

From the same directors or screenwriters

Journalist and film critic. I collaborate, or have collaborated, with various web and print publications, including (in chronological order) L’Acchiappafilm, and Since 2018 I have been a consultant for the psycho-educational reviews “Stelle Diverse” and “Aspie Saturday Film”, organized by the CuoreMenteLab center in Rome. In 2019 I founded the Asbury Movies website, of which I am the editor and managing director.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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