“My cinema is an extension of myself. A sort of life-testimony of my vital experience, with my few virtues and my numerous limitations.”
– Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Mexican-born Academy award winner Alejandro G. Iñárritu spent his youth travelling Europe and Africa, where he met many different people with many diverse stories. That had a great impact on him, as the internationally acclaimed director has stated that his films are about the essence of being human – flawed, conflicted, ashamed or even weak. The bitter nostalgia interweaves with emotional experiences, beautiful things and bright memories without a space to store them, and, most vividly, fear that these things will be lost forever, never to be lived again. This feeling is strong in Iñárritu’s films, starting with his first feature AMORES PERROS (2000), where one can see the universal complexity of human behaviour. The characters in the film have nothing in common, except for their own disarray and a car crash that changes everyone’s lives. These people expose their vulnerable, naked sides, which makes the film uncomfortable to watch – as if one’s invading the privacy, observing their weakest moments.
Continuing his death trilogy, Iñárritu made 21 GRAMS (2003) and BABEL (2005). Like AMORES PERROS, these two films have multiple intertwining stories that work like a butterfly effect – one cannot live without affecting others in one way or another, changing them, either physically or psychologically. Everyone is connected; everything is an extension of someone or something else. It can be as literal as a heart transplant or it is a never-ending, universal attempt to fight loneliness, a need to be heard and understood.
Maybe because he had had enough of twisted plots or possibly because of his parting of ways with a screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, Iñárritu shifted from hyperlink cinema to more conventional storytelling with his film BIUTIFUL (2010). Once again, the director puts emphasis on human faults such as guilt, shame, and frailty. The main character, Uxbal (Javier Bardem) represents Latin American magic realism proclaimed by a novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Much like Marquez, Iñárritu allows the spectator to believe in another world, a realm of ancient magic, which can be dark, haunting, scary and even wretched at times.
The traces of magical realism extend to BIRDMAN: OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) (2014), a movie which won Academy awards for the best picture, best director, best original screenplay and best cinematography. What’s so magical about an insecure, tired and retired superhero? The film explores the theme of constant self-doubt, the endeavor of understanding the eternal struggle of all the artists around the world – who am I? How do I make sure that the thin line between being a true artist and being a sell-out whore is not crossed? The Birdman himself though is a superhero, flawless, confident, who literally levitates above all the mess, made by mere mortals. Struggling to distinguish the fame of the past from the reality of the present, the character is on the verge of sanity, with madness slowly taking him over.
Iñárritu‘s latest piece is called THE REVENANT and it’s hitting cinemas in January 2016. The film is based on a true story of a frontiersman who is mauled by a bear whilst hunting, gets betrayed by his companions that murder his son and rob the man himself. He comes back from the dead and sets on a journey to revenge his former companions.
Even though it’s an adaptation, one can still see Iñárritu’s touch: story of survival in harsh conditions, where everyone around you turns out to be selfish, cruel lowlifes. Much is spoken about Iñárritu‘s stubborn directing style as well as his decision to shoot in natural light and obsession to make the film feel as authentic as possible. But as director himself said, ‘When you see the film, you will see the scale of it. And you’ll say ‘Wow’.
Maybe being extremely demanding is what makes Iñárritu one of the greatest auteurs of our time. Or maybe it is a realistic depiction of life, with all that’s there: darkness, misery, shame, but also hope, strength, a will to go on, certain characteristics that turn out to be magical. Even his darkest movies are, in a way, a celebration of life, an ode to all the living things and everything that comes with it. Maybe it is his own vital experience that independent film lovers learned to welcome and appreciate in spite of his limitations.