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'Bardo' Utilizes Every Cinematic Craft to Tell a Story That's Epic and Intimate

This story was created in partnership with Netflix for a fee.

In Tibetan Buddhism, “bardo” refers to Transition states are between death and rebirth. This is an opportunity for the soul to catch a glimpse of the true nature of things and to break free from the shackles and cycles of samsara. It is this void that Alejandro G. Iñárritu tries to explore with Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths , where time and logic no longer exist, and memory becomes an unreliable structure, is his most complex, grandest, and most importantly personal work to date.

“I’ve never prepared so much for a movie,” Birdman and Oscar-winning director Revenant said. “It was a five-year journey from writing to production. Every segment of the film was conceived, constructed, rehearsed, drawn, rehearsed again, and explored in detail in terms of intention, motivation, internal rhythm, staging, lighting, and camera movement It was a plan executed ahead of time, with a precision and absolute control that I have not asked for in any other film.”

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On its face, Bardo is the portrait of an immigrant – journalist Silverio Gama, actor Daniel Giménez Cacho as Iñárritu quasi-agent. Like Inarritu, Gamma moved his family to Los Angeles amid his own cultural rise, creating a divided sense of identity. “Immigration is a way to die, to be born again and to reinvent yourself,” said Inarritu. In this narrative structure, he seeks to further explore the notion of belonging and even the collective consciousness of the nation, as the film reads like a love letter to the vibrant historical complexities of his native Mexico.

But it’s one thing to conceive a movie dream in your head, abstractly on the page. Bringing it to real life required the collaborative spirit of an art form that fuses different crafts and trades to ultimately express itself.

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“I put visual grammar into practice,” Iñárritu Said, “It is able to flow in liquid form between close-ups, medium shots and long shots, thus weaving events invisibly in different times and spaces on the border between reality and imagination.”

In his first collaboration with Oscar-nominated cinematographer Darius Khondji ( Evita, The Immigrant), Iñárritu seeks a sense of perpetual movement through this visual language. The duo drew inspiration from photographer Vivian Maier, painters Paul Delvaux and Giorgio de Chirico, and even filmmakers Roy Andersson and Federico Fellini. Early on they used a large format aesthetic, shooting on an Arri Alexa 51 Camcorder with wide-angle Panavision lens designed for cinema.

“I’m not interested in definitions, but in the presence of actors,” Khondji said. “The presence of this camera is very strong.”

Everything was pre-conceived a year in advance, including many extended shots that required incredible precision to achieve. From the first-person, trance-like view at the beginning of the film depicting a shadow speeding across a desolate landscape as it attempts to levitate, to the crowded sequence set against the backdrop of the famous El Palacio del Baile California ballroom, nothing in Iñárritu’s vision is simple, Even if everything is certain in its concept.

Therefore, the art direction is exhaustive in many details. Almost every 75 The sets made for the film are huge in scale. Iñárritu teamed up with Oscar-winning production designer Eugenio Caballero (Pan’s Labyrinth, Roma) to bring his craziest Dreams transformed into practical magic. For example, Silverio’s apartment—already stuffed with personal identity and the warmth of living in it—was flooded in a studio in Mexico City before being dismantled and transported data, the Baja Desert, which is once again flooded with sand. The set includes flying walls that open and close with a system of hinges and pulleys, dams that divert water in specific directions, and more.


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In another sequence, Caballero helps Iñárritu conjures up his own large-scale art installation, just as Silverio walked through the streets of modern-day Mexico City for the first time before, ascending to the mountain of explorer Hernán Cortés’ corpse. The sequence plays out in the middle of the Zócalo Square, built in the center of the former Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, which became the foundation of the city we know today.

“It was important for me to understand that there is another way of looking at the city,” Caballero said. “The streets in the city center have changed. We have treated every facade so that every graffiti, every piece of urban art has a specific meaning. We have facade by facade, curtain by curtain , tone by tone. We kept some of the stores unchanged but remodeled others so they could mix eras.”

The aforementioned El Palacio del Baile California was also quite a challenge as it was long past its heyday and required structural support before Iñárritu and company could even take over it and film there. Once it was completely reinvented from a design standpoint, Caballero brought in hundreds of mirrors to assist Khondji in developing his carefully crafted lighting plan, which included a series of cues set on dimmer panels in real-time while filming Adjust lighting. The complexity required weeks of rehearsal to refine and calibrate.

That scene was also a burden on the film’s sound team, who had all sorts of aural tasks to juggle. Even before he started writing, Inarritu said, he was thinking about the role of music and sound in his films. The director points out that what we hear in the film is original. It’s a frequency that hits the body and isn’t analyzed like a film’s visual information. This is a great opportunity for him to connect with the audience in an original way.

“Alejandro’s memory for sounds is unparalleled,” says sound designer Martín Hernández. “He can remember resonance, reverb time, level. Bardo is about his memory, or the way memories interact.”

In the ballroom, production mixer Santiago Núñez put together dozens of lavalier mics, booms, rigs and implants to capture as much Every nuance. The vibes of real locations are a special treat. One particularly standout moment is David Bowie’s hit “Let’s Dance,” a cappella, and like everything else in the movie, there’s a clear intention behind the choice.

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“All the music I use write into the script,” said Iñárritu. “Very early on, I had this crazy idea of ​​using a cappella for this song. I wanted people to immerse themselves in the character’s radical point of view. In this dream state, when you sing a song you like, you Just mumbling the lyrics. That’s how it sounds in your consciousness. You take the music off. I want that feeling. It’s a happy moment for Silverio.”

The result is a shot that unfolds over the course of a few minutes, tracking some extra Silverio rejoicing in a sea of ​​carnival.

In the end, the many tools available to Iñárritu as a filmmaker come together to build a work that is as intimate as it is epic. It’s a reflection of national pride and personal identity, from an artist at a crossroads, eager and able to communicate those thoughts and feelings to a wider audience through the power of film.



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