‘Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths’ – How Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s Film Without Logic Makes Perfect Sense

“With success, take a sip, and do [swish motion] three times and spit it [out] because, if not, it will

“With success, take a sip, and do [swish motion] three times and spit it [out] because, if not, it will poison you,” says Alejandro González Iñárritu as he sits alongside his cast for his latest movie, Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths. The advice on success is an old saying from Iñárritu’s father and is one of many prophetic lines in Bardo.

The film is without logic, it is without reality. Rather the movie is about a metaphysical or spiritual place where there is no definite beginning, ending or tangible logic. Buddhists call bardo the state of existence that resides between death and rebirth. “Well, I think it’s exactly that,” says Alejandro. “I think it’s that space between when something dies or ends, and something is about to become.” 


Bardo AFI
Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (2022). Daniel GimÈnez Cacho as Silverio. Cr. Limbo Films, S. De R.L. de C.V. Courtesy of Netflix

Bardo: Life Imitating Art

At the center of Bardo is Silverio Gama (Daniel Giménez Cacho), a journalist and documentary filmmaker. Silverio, born in Mexico, immigrated to the United States and achieved tremendous success with his documentaries. So much so, he is about to be awarded one of the most prestigious awards in America. 

Sound like anyone familiar? There are obvious parallels in the fictional Silverio’s story and the film’s director. Alejandro González Iñárritu also moved from Mexico to Los Angeles and achieved the kind of success that most Hollywood directors can only write about.  Alejandro González Iñárritu has four Academy Awards to his name and is the first Mexican director to be nominated for the Oscar. And yes, he is the man who directed Leonardo DiCaprio to his first ever leading actor Academy Award. 

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu at The 88th Annual Academy Awards [Photo via Mega Agency]

That aside, it would be a mistake to think that this is a story about Alejandro’s American success. Rather, this intensely personal point of view of an immigrant man who straddles every aspect of life is told through a dream-state.  “You know, the country that I left doesn’t exist anymore.  The streets doesn’t exist anymore.  My memories are elusive and the way I remember is not [like that] anymore. I never know if that was the way it was, but it [is]  the way I remember.”says Alejandro.

Add to that the inherent and intense feeling of estrangement that belongs to many immigrants. In the case of Silverio, he isn’t Mexican enough for his friends and family in Mexico, yet not American enough for his colleagues in the United States. Simply put, he’s an outsider to both nations. While that is a sentiment that still belongs to Alejandro, it is far from being specific to him. It is in this universality that Alejandro strikes gold once again. 

Like the film’s lead character, the film itself questions everything while attempting to reconcile universally accepted truths. Even the very history of Mexico with respect to the Spanish conquest and the Mexican-American war of the 1840s is questioned. Silverio  questions the media and its integrity while it craves the attention and validation of social media. 

There is an abundant amount of questioning throughout the movie with the use of symbolism and situations that are so bizarre they require a second and third viewing. Think climbing a mountain of corpses or giving birth backwards kind of bizarre, just as it is in a dream.  “You can really deconstruct that,” Alejandro says. “For me, the game was  all these narratives, even our own lives, our narratives [that] we invented.  We create these narratives in a way have something [to] believe.  But the film plays with the idea that Silverio is questioning everything. His own narrative and the narrative of all what he’d been told, you know?”

Bardo AFI
Photo: Netflix

There is no structure.  This is a story with no story.”

Alejandro González Iñárritu

For the actors it was more about giving reverence to the feeling and not a physical script. In fact, the Oscar winning director didn’t share the script with the cast beforehand. He didn’t see a need for it. “I think the reason I did not give the script to anybody else was because, this is a walk in the conscious of somebody as a memory.” He elaborates further, “the script was built in 32 sequences that were related and not related. There is no structure. This is a story with no story.”

Bardo AFI
Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (2022). Daniel GimÈnez Cacho as Silverio. Cr. Rodrigo Jardon / Netflix © 2022

For the lead actor that wasn’t an issue, “Well, he was very clear, saying that we should not rationalize this.”  Cacho continues, “I finally got to read the script because he didn’t want me to read it. He said, ‘Well, read it, but don’t study it. Just have this idea.’ And so, we worked in that way, never constructing a character.” 

Bardo AFI
Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (2022). Daniel GimÈnez Cacho as Silverio. Cr. Limbo Films, S. De R.L. de C.V. Courtesy of Netflix

What was constructed was a cinematic feast for the eyes. At the films AFI premiere Alejandro admitted that it was the most technically challenging film he’s ever helmed. For the heavily decorated director, that is saying something truly remarkable. Long tracked shots with perfect natural lighting that took days to perfect. Scenes in a crowded dance hall at 95-degrees during the height of the pandemic that took three weeks to get in one take.  On the emotional side, the film defies logical explanation as much as it sears a feeling of humanity. 

It’s not a film that is simply seen, it is experienced. 

Alejandro writes of his latest film: “I must warn you beforehand: I have found no absolute truths. Only a journey between reality and imagination. A dream. Dreams do not possess time. Neither does cinema. Dreams, as cinema, are real but not truthful.”

Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths opens in select theaters right now before streaming on Netflix on December 16.