‘Bardo’ Harnesses Every Cinematic Craft To Tell A Story That’s Both Epic And Intimate – Deadline

This story was created in paid partnership with Netflix.

In Tibetan Buddhism, “bardo” refers to a state of transition between death and rebirth. It is the occasion for a soul to glimpse the true nature of things and to escape from the attachment and the cycle of reincarnation. It is this void, where time and logic cease to exist and memory becomes an unreliable construct, that Alejandro G. Iñárritu sought to explore with Bardo, false chronicle of a handful of truthshis most complex, most imposing and above all most personal work to date.

“I have never prepared a film so much,” said the Oscar-winning director of birdman and The ghost said. “It was a five-year journey from writing to producing. Each of the film’s sequences has been designed, constructed, rehearsed, drawn, rehearsed and extensively explored in intent, motivation, internal rhythm, staging, lighting and camera movement. It was a plan executed long in advance, with a precision and absolute control that none of my other films required of me.

Courtesy of Netflix

On his face, bardo is the portrait of an immigrant, the journalist Silverio Gama, a quasi-substitute of Iñárritu interpreted by the actor Daniel Giménez Cacho. Like Iñárritu, Gama moved his family to Los Angeles amid its own cultural rise, resulting in a sense of divided identity. “Migrating is a way of dying, of being reborn and of reinventing oneself,” says Iñárritu. In this narrative construction, he sought to further explore ideas of belonging and even notions of a nation’s collective consciousness, as the film plays like a love letter to the vibrant historical complexity of his native Mexico.

But designing a cinematic dreamscape in the mind and, abstractly, on the page, is one thing. Bringing it to life requires a spirit of collaboration in an art form that merges disparate crafts and crafts into an ultimate expression of self.

Courtesy of Netflix

“I practiced a visual grammar,” says Iñárritu, “a grammar capable of flowing between close-ups, medium shots and long shots in a liquid form, thus weaving, invisibly, events that occur in different times and spaces on the border between reality and fantasy. »

In his first collaboration with Oscar-nominated cinematographer Darius Khondji (Avoided, The immigrant), Iñárritu sought a sense of perpetual motion with this visual language. The duo began by taking inspiration from photographer Vivian Maier, painters Paul Delvaux and Giorgio de Chirico, and filmmakers Roy Andersson and Federico Fellini. They embraced a large format aesthetic early on, shooting on the Arri Alexa 65 camera with wide-angle Panavision lenses designed for film.

“It wasn’t the definition that interested me, it was the presence of the actors,” says Khondji. “This camera has a big presence.”

Everything was pre-designed a year in advance, including many extended takes that required incredible precision to achieve. From a first-person, trance-like perspective at the start of the film depicting a shadow swiftly passing through a desolate landscape while trying to levitate, to a jam-packed sequence set at the famed dancehall El Palacio del Baile California, nothing in the Iñárritu’s vision was not simple, although everything was final in its conception.

The artistic direction was therefore exhaustive and immersive in its many details. Almost every one of the 51 sets created for the film was enormous in scale. Iñárritu worked with Oscar-winning production designer Eugenio Caballero (Pan’s Labyrinth, Rome) by translating his wildest dreams into practical magic. Silverio’s apartment, for example – already filled with personal identity and lived warmth – was flooded with water on a Mexico City sound stage before being dismantled and transported 180 miles to the Baja desert, where it was then again flooded with sand. The set involved flying walls that opened and closed with hinges and pulley systems, dams to divert water in specific directions, and much more.

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Courtesy of Netflix

In another sequence, Caballero helped Iñárritu conjure up his own large-scale art installation, of sorts, as Silverio first traverses the streets of modern Mexico City before climbing a mountain of stacked bodies leading to the explorer Hernán Cortés. The sequence was set in the middle of Zócalo Square, built in the center of the ancient Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, which became the foundation of the city as we know it today.

“For me, it’s important to understand that there is another way to see the city,” says Caballero. “The streets of the city center have all been transformed. We have worked on each facade so that each graffiti, each element of urban art has a particular meaning. We went facade by facade, curtain by curtain, tone by tone. We left some stores as they were, but transformed others so they could have a mix of eras.

The aforementioned Palacio del Baile California was also a considerable challenge, given that it was long past its prime and needed structural support before Iñárritu and company could even take it over and shoot there. Once it was completely redesigned from a design standpoint, Caballero then brought in hundreds of mirrors to help Khondji with his elaborate lighting plan, which involved a series of cues placed on a dimmer to adjust the brightness. real-time lighting as they rotated. The complexity required weeks of rehearsal to refine and calibrate.

This scene was also a bear for the film’s sound crew, who had a wide variety of aural tasks to perform throughout. Iñárritu says that even before beginning the writing process, he thinks about the role of music and sound in his films. What you hear in a film is raw, notes the director. It is a frequency which strikes the body, which is not analyzed like the visual information of the cinema. It’s a rich opportunity for him to connect with his audience in a primary way.

“Alejandro’s sound memory is unparalleled,” says sound designer Martín Hernández. “He can remember resonances, reverberation time, levels. bardo is about his memory, or the way memories interact.

In the dance hall, production mixer Santiago Núñez adorned the set with dozens of lapel mics, boom poles, platforms and planted devices to capture every nuance possible. The resonance of the actual location was a particular treat. One highlight in particular features David Bowie’s popular song “Let’s Dance,” a cappella, and like everything else in the film, there was a clear intention behind the choice.

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Courtesy of Netflix

“All the music I used was written in the script,” says Iñárritu. “Early on, I had this crazy idea of ​​using a cappella singing. I wanted people to dive into a radical point of view with the character. In this dream state, when you sing a song you like, you just mumble the lyrics. That’s how it sounds in your consciousness. You remove the music. I wanted that feeling. It’s a moment of joy for Silverio.

The result is a shot that unfolds over several minutes of tracking in and around some 800 extras as Silverio rejoices in a sea of ​​revelers.

In the end, the many tools available to Iñárritu as a filmmaker come together to construct a body of work that is both intimate and epic. It is a reflection of national pride and the personal identity of an artist at a crossroads, willing and able to communicate those thoughts and feelings to a wider audience through the power of cinema.

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‘Bardo’ Harnesses Every Cinematic Craft To Tell A Story That’s Both Epic And Intimate – Deadline

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