For seven years, we have been waiting to see what the two-time Oscar winner from Mexico Alejandro Gonzalez Inarrita will come up with after “The Revenant” and “Birdman”, two films that made him only the second director after John Ford and Joseph L. Mankiewicz to win an Oscar in consecutive years. The wait finally came to an end, and after his debut “Dog’s Love” Inarritu returned home to Mexico to film a surrealist fantasy that constantly dances between reality and fiction, and which turned out to be a huge disappointment. As an incredibly pretentious quasi-autobiographical attempt at a variation on the theme of Fellini’s “Eight and a Half”, a chaotic epic in which it was as if he himself was not sure what to do, so he decided to shovel everything that was bothering him.
From the colonial history of Mexico and Hernan Cortes, to the existential and identity crisis he is experiencing. From philosophical laments about the state of society and how intellectuals like him mean very little there today to grieving the loss of a child in a rather bizarre way. From the fact that he is a Mexican who has not lived in his own country for twenty years, but in the USA, and how he actually loves and idealizes Mexico from afar, he laments about what should be done there and how it should be done, but in fact he does not know the people and the country at all . From the fact that he is an intellectual who thinks about the world and tries to show the lives of ordinary people and seeks their approval, and in fact somehow despises these same people and while he pretends that he does not care about their opinion, it hurts him terribly when they do not perceive his greatness and importance.
All this troubles the main protagonist of Inarritu’s film, investigative journalist and documentarian Silverio Gama (excellent Daniel Gimenez Cacho), who is actually Inarritu’s undisguised alter ego. He moved from Mexico to America twenty years ago because he was fighting censorship, threats, pressures at home and could not do the work he wanted. In the meantime, he became famous all over the world, and his new film, the docu-fiction “False Chronicle of a Handful Truths” brought him the biggest awards and accolades. Soon he is to receive an award in Los Angeles, and before that in Mexico, and after years of absence he returned with his son Lorenzo and his wife Lucia (Argentine Griselda Sicilliani) and returned home for a short time.
Although he believes that he is happy and has a fulfilled life, he is haunted by the loss of his son Mateo, who died just one day after his birth. Thus, in these slightly more than two and a half hours, we follow Silverio’s meetings with former friends and acquaintances in Mexico City, and all of this is mixed with his dreams, memories and fantasies in a surrealistic, phantasmagoric style. In the moments when he is probably experiencing the greatest triumph in his professional career, Silverio seems to be falling into a total crisis. In an agony seasoned with anxiety and questions, is anything he did in his life and career that he tried to hold at a high level and not succumb to superficiality, but an uncompromising search for the truth, really worth it? But what if he is actually the most ordinary scam, just like all those successful egomaniacs with millions of followers on social networks who sell appearances and trivia are usually scams. What if he is the same, just fooling himself all his life that he is doing something better, more valuable, more important, higher?
There is no question that Inarritu is a director’s grandmaster and the way “Bard” was directed and choreographed is breathtaking. It looks brilliant, just as some segments of the film are brilliant only to have it all fly away into boredom, monotony and chaos. There is again a lot of moving camera that goes through the space and follows the characters like in “Birdman”, and in large parts of the film it seems as if it was filmed through a lens called “fish eye” and further creates a disorienting atmosphere. I have the impression that Inarritu wanted to capture absolutely everything that was bothering him, and in that rather pretentious idea a lot of things were lost and remained quite disconnected, unfinished, although the idea of a character who actually lives in fear of not exposing his shortcomings and to expose him as another vain, Pomodrian slobber was genius.
So he will sabotage an arranged interview with a former friend, now the host of one of those kitschy, trivial television shows, out of fear that the latter might jump on him with questions that have nothing to do with his job. They will finally meet this same colleague later at a big party organized in his honor when they will finally tell each other what they think in a scene that is one of the highlights of the film. In fact, “Bardo” abounds in such scenes and there are countless moments that are fascinating and ingenious. Like the scene where Silverio meets the ghost of his late father in a public toilet to finally say to each other what they didn’t in their lifetime. Or the scene when he walks through the streets of Mexico City, and around him people just start collapsing and remain lying motionless on the road, symbolizing those who died in Mexico from poverty and crime.
Or the scene when Silverio literally climbs over a mountain of corpses to Hernan Cortes to talk to him about the early history of Mexico and its origins in the genocide of the natives there. There is also a scene in which this great fighter for justice, equality and the rights of the oppressed comes with his family to a summer resort for the super-rich, where they do not allow servants, to which he does not react at all, but his daughter does. There really is a whole series of such absurd, surreal, perfectly conceived and sensationally performed scenes, but “Bardo” failed to function as a cohesive whole.