A pattern is emerging in the second half of 2022. Filmmakers are feeling introspective. Autobiographical statements are all the rage. We’ve already talked about Armageddon Time and Aftersun. The Fabelmans is coming shortly. This week, we’re looking at Bardo: False Chronicle for a Handful of Truths from director Alejandro G. Iñárritu.
These stories walk a challenging line. The final products span sensitive and moving self-portraits to dense, self-indulgent monsters. With his latest film making headlines after its Venice Film Festival debut, is Iñárritu able to harness his vision into the first category? Or does it slump lazily into the second?
Speaking honestly, it’s difficult to even attempt a synopsis for Bardo: False Chronicle for a Handful of Truths. The film follows a journalist and filmmaker, Silverio (Daniel Giménez Cacho), gearing up to receive a landmark award.
Along the way, he faces questions about identity and family, which rock his world and set him on edge. Griselda Siciliani, Ximena Lamadrid and Íker Sánchez Solano co-star in the movie. Iñárritu directs the film from a script he co-wrote with Nicolás Giacobone.
As mentioned, Bardo: False Chronicle for a Handful of Truths is a highly personal work from Iñárritu featuring many autobiographical elements. Iñárritu serves as director, writer, editor, producer and even composer on this feature. It is close to his heart.
This is perhaps an overly long way of saying; this movie is a heady beast. It’s complex, dense and is unfortunately obtuse, bordering on self-indulgent. This starts at the runtime with Bardo: False Chronicle for a Handful of Truths coming in at a bladder-busting 2 hours and 40 minutes.
In all fairness, a long runtime is not necessarily a positive or negative. A three-hour film can fly, and a 90-minute movie can drag. Could Bardo: False Chronicle For A Handful of Truth be shorter? It certainly could.
At the same time, though, it really wasn’t until deep in the second act that I really started feeling the length. Variety reports the almost 160-minute feature actually had 22 minutes of extra footage cut during its early festival run.
With all that being said, though, Iñárritu harnesses all his directing powers resulting in truly beautiful, captivating visuals. There were multiple times throughout the movie where I actively cursed the fact I needed to rely on the subtitles. The number of elegant and (apparently) one-take shots were distractingly stunning.
Those who have a chance to see Bardo: False Chronicle For A Handful of Truth on the big screen should take advantage. As mentioned, Iñárritu’s direction borders on masterful. When combining this with his work with cinematographer Darius Khondji, the result is a thrill to watch. The emotionality and beauty in every frame of this film should put both these men in contention for Oscars.
Bardo: False Chronicle for a Handful of Truths is less a concrete narrative and more an abstract meditation on character. While the film isn’t a straight autobiography, Cacho’s casting as Silverio reminds us of the movie’s deep autobiographical roots. Cacho and Iñárritu could be brothers.
While the performances throughout the movie are solid, Cacho is by far and away the MVP with his tender and grounded performance. In the face of narrative moments bordering on the farcical or even the absurd, he feels fully and completely natural. His is a relatable and often understated portrayal in a movie that is anything but.
Ultimately, feelings about the film are going to vary widely with each individual viewer. Iñárritu’s script combines fantastical imagery with a deeply introspective story. Those who gel with the narrative intensity will be blown away. Those who don’t are in for a long, challenging haul.
The opening scene sets the tone. The audience watches as Silverio’s wife (Siciliani) gives birth. However, once the baby is born, the doctor declares the child believes this world is “too f*cked” and desires to “go back in.”
With that, the baby is (literally) reinserted into his mother. While the image on the screen isn’t as graphic as it might look in print, this is the kind of content filling the narrative.
In my own personal experience, I sailed through much of the story on the sheer beauty of the visuals alone. However, as the film sped passed the two-hour mark, my coasting slowed to a slog. There’s far more to this script than visuals alone. When all is said and done, though, I was left fascinated by this story. Did I miss something? What added meaning would show itself upon a second viewing? How does a movie like this evolve with multiple viewings?
Ultimately, Bardo: False Chronicle for a Handful of Truths is going to be a different experience for everyone. The movie is a beast and a bit of a challenge. However, those who connect with this narrative are sure to have a powerful and moving experience.
It’s just a shame the script is a dense mass of craziness. That doesn’t change the fact, though, that Iñárritu is one of the masters of the medium, and he puts it all on display here. If all of this sounds up your alley, don’t wait for this movie to hit Netflix. This deserves to be seen on the big screen.
Bardo: False Chronicle for a Handful of Truths opens in select cities for a theatrical run on November 18. It debuts on Netflix beginning December 16.
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