BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths | Third Space
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BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths

Wed 23 Nov 2022
Existential nothingness
Alt

1 out of 5

Used without qualification, "bardo" is the state of existence intermediate between two lives on earth. This space is the existential zone that divides waking life and sleeping death. The concept has its origins in Tibetan Buddhism. Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu has used this term to adequately title his latest work, a rumination on his own life and identity.

BARDO, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths is a meditative, self-indulgent, and semi-autobiographical quest that follows Silverio Gama (Daniel G. Cacho), who serves as a narrative stand-in for Iñárritu. He is a Mexican journalist turned documentary filmmaker living in Los Angeles with his wife Lucía and teenage son Lorenzo. The writer's work has become increasingly personal and subjective as he has grown older. His latest film, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, is a docufiction work with autobiographical elements. Silverio experiences much of his day-to-day life as a father, husband, and proud Mexican. His surreal journey of dreams, memories, and fantasies plays out alongside his regular activities.

The film languishes in its lengthy runtime filled with repetitive rumination and morose metaphors, but is mesmerising in its stunning cinematography and deeply felt personal longings for nationality, identity, and family. This project is an admirable feat from Iñárritu and a very personal account based upon his own perceived perceptions of who he is from others and himself. Still, the movie becomes very self-indulgent navel-gazing, which is incomprehensible at times and incredibly tiring. The message is evident that Iñárritu is wrestling with his own view of himself in contrast with how others view him. And that this film is an attempt to refute his critics, and deify himself. A tale that is transcendent and introspective and sometimes absolutely absurd, with weird CGI foetuses, a shrunken body with a full-sized head, and battle sequences mid-conversation.

Darius Khondji’s cinematography is stunning and salvages a lot of the film. The audience will likely only be engaged half the time purely because of how visually breathtaking it is. Despite being a gorgeous film, the overall experience is dense, long, slow, and bloated. One that can be admired and respected due to its ambition. Yet, it becomes a snake eating its own tale, trying to comment on pretension, whilst succumbing equally to it, leaving it to feel tired by the end. A bizarre story that is dreamlike and fugue in its state that you may struggle not to be swept into your dreams.

Overall, the film feels like a misguided attempt by Iñárritu to apologise for his privilege by wielding that same privilege to create a three-hour big-budget self-indulgent experience.

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Reel Dialogue: What is the meaning of life?

Iñárritu posits himself as a deep philosopher. This creative filmmaker uses this film to wax poetic about his previous work, his identity, his country and nationality, and his beliefs and values. And yet, his answers and presentation are often hypocritical, self-indulgent, and overtly foolish. Winking to the camera about your creative failings does not absolve you of them. Instead, it points the finger back at its owner. So where can we find answers? Is life truly meaningless?

King Solomon was a man blessed with wisdom from God and wrote extensively about life's transient, fleeting nature. In the book of Ecclesiastes, he opens with the Hebrew word, ‘hevel’, which translates to ‘a fleeting vapour’. This is how Solomon sees life, as a vapour that is present, and even pretty, but that does not last. This means we need to make the most of our life, and there’s no better way to do that than by following Jesus, who offers meaning in life now, and an eternal life upon death.

“Transient! Transient!” says the Teacher. “Utterly transient! Everything is transient.” - Ecclesiastes 1:2

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