The director explains to IndieWire how he condensed his dreamlike film into a wordless teaser – and his recent decision to trim 22 minutes from the feature film.
As the title suggests, Alejandro G. Iñarritus’ Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths has a lot to offer. The film, which follows a successful journalist and filmmaker (Daniel Giménez Cacho) who returns to his native Mexico City after many years in the US, unfolds many bold and surrealistic twists as it progresses. Full of dream sequences and metaphors for Mexico’s complicated history, Bardo’s essence is difficult to capture in a single description – making assembling the trailer a daunting task.
“The film is always navigating these ridiculous things that are happening and profound things that are coexisting with them,” Iñaritu told IndieWire via Zoom this week. “I thought the trailer was supposed to say that.” (Watch it exclusively on IndieWire at the bottom of this article.)
He collaborated with trailer editor extraordinaire Mark Woolen (whose other recent credits include TAR and White Noise) to put together a breathtaking immersion into the phantasmagorical nature of the film set of The Beatles’ I Am the Walrus. Iñaritu secured the song with help from Sean Lennon, a fan of the filmmaker’s work and son of the Beatles frontman. “John Lennon intentionally wrote lyrics for this song that are impossible to interpret,” Iñaritu said. “Nonsense that makes sense is what this film is trying to do. Mark Woolen made it so that the lyrics made sense with the images.”
Iñaritu has struggled a lot with his vision in recent weeks. In addition to working on the trailer, the filmmaker reopened the editing of his film after seeing it with viewers in Venice and Telluride, downsizing and rearranging certain scenes while adding a new one.
The latest cut, making its debut at the San Sebastián Film Festival this week, is a full 22 minutes shorter, bringing the total running time without credits to two hours and 32 minutes.
Iñaritu said that with deadlines preventing him from holding screenings for friends and family before its first festival run, he was only able to edit the film with an audience during that time. “The first time I saw my film was in Venice with 2,000 people,” he said. “It was a nice opportunity to see it and learn about things that could benefit from being a little tied up, adding a scene that never came in time and changing the order of a thing or two. Little by little I tightened it up and I’m very excited about it.” This process was still ongoing. “Honestly, I’m going to keep doing this until it’s released to get the best movie while I can,” he said. “You never finish a movie. The deadlines only ask you to deliver it.
This is nothing new for the director, who says he tinkered with the cuts of 21 Grams and Babel after their respective festival premieres. “If I could, I would edit all year round,” he said. “I would love to work on this film for the rest of my life.”
At Telluride, Iñaritu said he avoided early reviews of “Bardo,” which were mixed. This week he confirmed that nothing has changed on that front. “I want to reiterate that I haven’t read a single rating for my sanity,” he said. “There is no one better than me who knows all the dots that connect and how they could connect better.”
The additional scene added to the film revolves around a conversation the protagonist has with his driver as they drive to Mexico City. “It’s a very endearing little scene,” Iñaritu said, but declined to elaborate on other tweaks. “It’s the magic trick that no one will really know. Above all, I think it’s gotten faster. I rearranged the music a bit, which made me feel safer.” However, an extended dance floor sequence that is a centerpiece of the film remains the same. “Most of the film is untouched,” Iñaritu said. “It was really about getting the inner rhythm of certain scenes right.”
Iñaritu noted that his first cut of Bardo lasted over four hours, but insisted length was never his primary concern. “I’ve seen movies that were 80 minutes and too long,” he said, “or three and a half hours and not too long at all. There is nothing more powerful than seeing the film with an audience. That helped me.”
Still, he added with a grin, “It’s shorter than ‘The Revenant.'” (Iñarritu’s Oscar-winning wilderness epic is about four minutes longer.)
Regardless of how the latest cut differs from the previous one, the trailer captures the essence of the film and condenses many of its most striking images into a stunning collage. It also takes dialogue out of the equation. “There’s something about reading subtitles in trailers that can break the flow,” Iñaritu said. “We felt that images emotionally navigated to what we wanted to say.”
From an opening scene in which the character imagines he can fly, to a later one in which he converses with his father’s spirit, “Bardo” ebbs and flows with a constant subjectivity. “We wanted this mural of mental states,” Iñaritu said. “Mexico isn’t a country, it’s a state of mind, and the film grew out of that — that feeling of a country that doesn’t belong to you and you can’t go back to.”
After San Sebastián, the new version of “Bardo” will make its way through the festival circuit, with bookings in London and at AFI FEST ahead of a Netflix theatrical release on November 18 (streaming on the service begins December 16). Meanwhile, it remains a front-runner for Mexico’s official Oscar submission as one of four films on the country’s shortlist. The final decision will be made at the end of the month. “Anything they decide will be great,” Iñaritu said. “There are some other great films trying to be selected as well. It is very difficult to know the result.”
He was encouraged by early reactions to “Bardo” in his home country, where he said it was considered a “very Chilangoic film” – slang for people living in Mexico City, where most of the story takes place. “Chilangos get it,” he said. “That made me very happy.” What he was most pleased about was that the humor came through despite the difficult subject. “People laugh a lot,” he says. “That was the most rewarding thing for me.”
Watch the trailer for Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths below.
https://www.indiewire.com/2022/09/bardo-trailer-alejandro-gonzalez-inarritu-shorter-1234765519/ Bardo Trailer: Alejandro G. Iñaritu Reveals Shorter Cut Of Film