Every now and then, we come across a movie that is so absurd that we can’t figure out how we feel about it. “Bardo” isn’t one of those films because, from the title itself, we know what we’re getting into, and it delivers on all fronts! The only unfortunate bit is that we can’t see this magnificent film on the big screen. This movie is confusing, chaotic, delightful, detestable, thrilling, interesting, and fascinating all at once. It seems this year has given the world’s greatest minds the freedom to truly outshine themselves and give us stories from within that are relatable. “Bardo” is among those self-reflective movies that lead one to derealization or existentialism. Guillermo Del Toro said that the essence of this film is that it is “real cinema,” and we honestly couldn’t agree more. Alejandro González Iñárritu gives his most reflective work yet and leaves one melancholic by the end of two hours and forty minutes of sheer… cinema. A warning of graphic visuals of childbirth for the faint of heart for this one. Let’s crackdown on “Bardo: A False Chronicle of A Handful of Truths.”
‘Bardo’ Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?
We follow world-renowned Mexican documentary journalist Silverio Gama in his journey through some of the events in his recent past. He lives in the US, but he and his family have come to his Mexican home to celebrate a prestigious award he is about to receive from the US. We begin the movie with Silverio jumping to unimaginable heights and trying to “fly” during one of these leaps; he is so high he doesn’t come back down. Cut to a graphic scene of Lucia, his wife, giving birth to their son Mateo. The doctor tells them that Mateo “doesn’t want to come out” and is pushed back into Lucia. Soon we’re in a metro with Silverio carrying a bag of salamanders that suddenly burst open, and Silverio gets down on his knees to try and catch them, where the scene switches to his home. He is then asked by his wife why he didn’t do the interview, to which he replies that it was her who accepted it. Silverio is a happy family man who spends most of his time in LA. His children have been brought up there as well. Silverio is aware that the American ambassador is attempting to create a good impression on the American-Mexican front and is using Silverio (who is loved by the Mexican public) to do so. Silverio also views himself within the Mexican-American war and also seems to be having a conversation with Hernán Cortés, only for us to realize it is a film set and they are just speaking dialogue. He imagines himself on the set of the interview, where he is bombarded and insulted by the presenter, paralyzing him in fear and putting him in a position of silence. It is understood that Silverio doesn’t appreciate the position of center stage, and when he is called to give a speech about his award, he hides in the bathroom where he interacts with his dead father, where he comes to the understanding that his father was proud of him. Later, Silverio is on vacation in Baja California, where he and his daughter have a deep conversation in which she tells him she wants to move to their homeland, Mexico. Despite his praise for Mexico. Silverio doesn’t appreciate this idea very much. His daughter then tells him that she is an adult now and can make her own decisions. Lorenzo, Silverio’s other son, recounts an incident from when they moved to LA. Silverio shares a sweet moment with him but feels terrible that his son didn’t feel comfortable telling him this sooner. We see Silverio in different scenarios that he has experienced in the recent past in a dream-like sequence of scenes that help him reflect on his life and reconnect with his family, leaving us with a shattering ending.
‘Bardo’ Ending Explained – What Is True, And What Is False? Does Silverio Take His Leap Of Faith And Fly?
It is awe-inspiring how Alejandro doesn’t take a second to introduce us to his flawed protagonist and puts us directly in the middle of the fire right from the start of this film. Silverio is a distant narrator who is lost and confused, giving us the same feeling throughout the film, questioning what reality is and is not, but through this fallacy, we develop a real liking for this family man who is only trying to come to terms with his life. It is revealed in the last fifteen minutes of this movie that Silverio has been in a coma the whole time and suffered a stroke on the metro. The shocking scene devastatingly brings one back to reality after the baffling fever-dream-like set of events that have taken place in the last couple of hours, also making it clear that we have been in Silverio’s stroke-stricken head this whole time (gorgeously portrayed through camera movement and cinematography). “Bardo” is a reflection of Alejandro’s life as a Mexican who lives in the US and hurtfully showcases the feelings of the privileged Mexican immigrant. What can be well appreciated about this movie, though, is that even with its stylistic presentation (which is an engrossing watch), “Bardo” doesn’t leave anything unanswered. In fact, it’s given us the biggest answer in its name itself: “Bardo,” meaning a state of limbo between death and rebirth. It is especially eerie to find this out after finishing the film. It is difficult to tell if Silverio knew as he got the stroke in the metro that he would be dying or if he just wanted to go through the memories of the past few days to make sense of them, but eventually, we know he is finding happiness in his life because he has accepted his impending death.
Guilt The ‘Overt’ Theme Of ‘Bardo’
Silverio begins the movie on a high but immediately comes back down with the thought of his son Mateo, who died a day after birth. The guilt of being unable to father another child has not allowed Silverio and the family to let go of their son, who never lived. Later, though, the family goes and pours out his ashes in the sea, which they see as a newborn swimming into the ocean. Silverio’s biggest regret, though, is that he feels like a hypocritical Mexican. In many scenes, we see Silverio interact with people who are brutally honest with him about him being America’s (pardon our French) asslicker. We also see him reflect on Mexican political history and have a conversation with Hernán Cortés, the man who brought present-day mainland Mexico under the rule of Spain, and the man tells him that humans think we come from a considerable amount of places, but truthfully we are from “nowhere.” Later, by the end of the movie, Silverio and his family have an argument with the immigration officer at the LA airport, and Silverio tells the officer to admit that this is his home. He misses Mexico, but he has become an immigrant and has finally come to terms with it. He feels American. Silverio never gave the interview he was supposed to with his friend, the TV host Luis, and he feels remorseful about that too, but he didn’t do it because he was afraid to face the truth of it all. That he was a journalist who presented other people’s truths, never his own, this particular conversation also almost seems like Alejandro is showing us the cruelest things people may say about his movies and him laughing it off (or should we say, dancing it off). Silverio has come to realize that being a documentary maker has distanced him from the family that he deeply loves. Throughout the film, it is his family—his wife, daughter, and son—who guide him to accept his life as it is and “free” himself from this feeling. What makes this movie one of the saddest of the year is that when Silverio is trying to reconnect with his family by truly listening to them, he suffers a stroke. Silverio is on the train because his daughter (in one of the gorgeous scenes of the film) called him out for never taking public transport. He was also carrying a bag of salamanders to give his son because on the plane ride back from Mexico to LA, Lorenzo told him how, when they moved to the US for the first time, he secretly carried his salamanders because they were his only friends, and unfortunately they died in the suitcase. Silverio is trying to leave a legacy behind, as most people would like to, but in doing so, he hasn’t “seen” his true legacy: his children, who have grown up to be wonderful, reflective human beings. When his daughter, Camila, is giving her speech about the award he received, he gets nailed to the stage, like Jesus’ crucifixion. He has crucified himself in this life. It is Lucia who is always bringing Silverio from scene to scene, guiding him through his life, as he truly loves her and is thankful for her existence. Later in the hospital, she says thank you for bringing him back to Mexico. She also tells Silverio that he looks happy and peaceful, with a sense of letting go. Camila says they had been playing some childhood videos on the TV in the room, and Silverio had shed some tears, meaning he was listening to everything that was happening around him. Lorenzo even finds the lock of hair his father had cut off when he thought he was having a dream of his parents, but in reality, Silverio and Lorenzo were both awake. Showing Lorenzo how much his father still loves him. It is a shame that Lorenzo may never find out that Silverio had, in fact, purchased new Salamanders for him.
“Bardo” reflects the clamor of life, and Silverio even says that at his age, it almost feels like a convulsion. “Bardo” touches upon everything that seems important to one’s life: religion, homeland, family, and death, bringing us full circle. At the end of the film, we are back to the first scene where he is jumping. We see him joined by his family—his father (who is dead) and the rest of his family, who are still alive. They say they want to come with him, but he lets them know there is nothing for them there; he follows his father, and with the bye-bye of his family, the screen turns black. The most devastating goodbye because by now, we’ve come to love and understand this flawed character and also reflected on our own lives. At the beginning of this essay, we used a mouthful of words to describe the feeling this film induces, but we could also use those words to describe one’s life.
“Bardo” is a 2022 comedy drama film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu.