A shadow [of a man] tries to fly, but he is unable to do so because something (or someone) has bound him to the earth. At first, this scene can remind you of Federico Fellini’s “Eight and a  Half” (1963). It is how I perceived the opening scene of “Bardo, False Chronicle of a  Handful of Truths” by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu that I, as a critic, watched at the  Busan International Film Festival at CGV theater cinema in 2022.

“Bardo” (2022) is the most lying movie I’ve ever seen. Due to all of the false short stories (sequences), it has different levels of lying. Inarritu, as always, has chosen the right form for the content he is going to say in his movie. Also, he perfectly added some sauce to this main dish to make the audience enjoy more of watching his self-reflection on the silver screen.

The narrative of “Bardo” emphasizes that he is a liar. But as we know from the history of Cinema, we’re going to love such a narrative if it can lie honestly! Here,  the question is how is it possible to be honest and also a liar?

First and foremost, we know that cinema only has the illusion of motion. Fundamentally, there is no movement in a film’s frames. The motion is caused by a machine showing us 24 still photos in a second; due to a process in our visual system, we believe the lie that there are movements in a film. This is the first lie that films are approved to tell us. But not the last one!

Because great filmmakers, particularly Luis Bunuel, have improved surreal narratives in movies, we now simply accept untrustworthy narrators in movies. These narrators can tell us some short stories, but after a while, we’ll discover that all of the stories aren’t true. But is this really true? The main question is, what makes us determine whether a story is true or not? If a movie is about taking place in a human being’s life and/or being experienced by a human, the next question will be:

Haven’t we experienced this in our dreams, or haven’t they taken place in our lives?

Of course, they have. As Andre Breton said in the first manifest of Surrealism in  1924, it is not fair we don’t pay attention to the events in our sleeping world as much as we are focused on our routine events in the time we are awake. In fact, they should be given equal weight considering the amount of time we spend in a state of slumber. Based on this theory, Inarritu shows us uncountable worlds Silverio (Daniel Gimenez Cacho) is experiencing during this turbulent phase of his life and attempts to blur the line between reality and fantasy for the audience, who is experiencing Silverio’s life on the screen.

Inarritu employs cinematic techniques to create a surreal atmosphere in his film; for example, long take shots can blur the line between reality and fantasy, and he employs this technique to do so in Silverio’s world.

Bardo 2022

Editing is the second lie that cinema can easily and professionally tell us. As a technical component of a film, film editing has dealt with numerous issues and has been linked to technological advancements. But editing as an aesthetic approach in movies has always been a way of telling lies! The term “Cut” refers to the fact that we cannot see what happened in the time removed from the recorded shot, and the filmmaker intends to persuade us that there is a temporal connection between these two shots (the cut shot and the next shot). This means that films have attempted to create the illusion of time connectivity following the success of the first illusion (of motion).

As a result, we have editing as the greatest lie. Inarritu has taken various approaches to editing his narratives. As an illusionist in Amores Perros (2000) and 21 Grams (2003), he used editing to connect events that occurred at different times. To be honest, he also tried to use a long-take shot in storytelling in Birdman (2014), and we know it was another well-constructed illusionist trick of the filmmaker.

Inarritu employs cinematic techniques to create a surreal and intimate atmosphere in “Bardo.” When used in a sequence that mixes real and fantasy events together, long takes obscure the line between reality and fantasy; for instance, the very ambitious scene where the camera moves continuously inside the house to different rooms while depicting different times of Silverio’s life in one long take shot.

Editing is another technique through which Inarritu maintains surrealistic qualities. Cuts in the middle of a long take shot just to have match cuts are an amateur yet fascinating use of editing in cinema. To understand the good and bad aspects of editing in this film, consider the cuts between the sequences: a sudden cut transports us to a world we didn’t know we could be there in that moment, and this kind of surprise gives us the energy to experience the next scene. This is done well in “Bardo,” though the cinematography style (using fish-eye lenses) that doesn’t fit the standard match-cuts in the middle of a sequence.

Because “Bardo” (2022) is about “life, birth, and death,” it focuses on the primary symbol of life in dreams: water. Following the opening scene and revealing the film’s sense of humor, in a scene in which a baby at the moment of its birth wishes to return to its mother’s body, we are led to the water! Silverio, the main character, is caught up in the currents of his life. So we see a short moment of him navigating through stagnant water in a metro train, like in a pool.

Of course, the film is another homage to Fellini’s masterpiece, following films such as All That Jazz” (1979), Nine (2009), Hamoun (1989), and Pain and Glory (2019). Still, it is very much a closely reflexive work of Inarritu’s life as much as “Eight and a half” was about Fellini, and  “Pain and Glory” were about Almodovar.

“Bardo” (2022) is very faithful to its predecessor, “Eight and a Half” (1963). So, the ending is similar to Fellini’s film, particularly in concept and meaning: The entire family is gathered in the desert of Silverio’s dreamy living. Indeed, this inspiring scene shows us that human beings’ much-desired evolution has not happened yet. Carl Gustav Jung discussed the illusion of civilization in the twentieth century, and we know that idea just covered human desires and showed us that humans are in the wrong direction. And still, the problem has not been solved. Now, 60 years after Fellini’s “Eight and a Half,” only one thing has happened to us. We are only aware of our knowledge about the quantity and the quality of human beings’ unsolvable problems. This is the most important concept that “Bardo” guides us to consider.

Also, Read: Aftersun (2022) As A Tale of Aching (Re)Memory and Imagination

Bardo (2022) Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes

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