Alejandro González Iñárritu’s “Bardo” is the director’s most personal film to date, and possibly his most ambitious — which is really saying something when you’re talking about the filmmaker behind “Birdman” and “The Revenant.” While those films had their logistical and physical challenges, “Bardo” tested Iñárritu in a more intellectual and emotional sense. “The fabric of this movie is different from any other movie that I have done,” he told IndieWire’s Filmmaker Toolkit Podcast. “There is no story, there is no structure, there is no plot. Just a mental landscape of a character that comes from the last moments of his life and all this dreamlike perception. To convey that and to materialize those images or feelings and memories was very difficult to get to. What is the emotion that we are trying to convey, and then what are the technical and the physical requirements to make that happen? It was an equation that I have never confronted before.”
To find models for his unusual narrative, Iñárritu looked to an unlikely source of inspiration. “In the ’70s, I loved these albums that were concept albums,” he said. “There were no singles, there was no division. The Pink Floyd albums, or Yes, or Genesis’ ‘The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.’ Albums like that or David Bowie’s were telling a story and the songs were blending and it was just an atmosphere — a dream state, and the story’s kind of subjective. So the idea was always that: to not necessarily have act one, act two, act three; to not build or construct something, but to liberate and erase the boundaries and borders between genres and compartmentalization of things. This film required much more than others because I was trying to express things that I have not solved, things that I have to overcome, experiences, dreams. Memories that did not make sense, that were telling me something that I did not understand… that were absolutely mysterious, but they were coming up and were affecting me.”
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The Filmmaker Toolkit podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and Stitcher. The music used in this podcast is from the “Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present” score, courtesy of composer Nathan Halpern.