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Review: 'Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths'

Alejandro G. Inarritu is one of the most exciting filmmakers to come along in a long, long time.

His recent work includes: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) and The Revenant (2015). Both movies knocked me out of my proverbial movie seat.

Both were absolutely remarkable movies, bold and unconventional, and highly entertaining.

I was primed for whatever came next, and I was not disappointed.

Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths is something that I’d consider a major personal triumph as well as a modern masterpiece.

I’m praying that the title and/or synopses don’t scare audiences away. Granted, it’s a high-brow, intellectual, artsy film. That should count as three strikes against it. But Inarritu, once again proves his fearlessness and mastery of his craft by serving up a film, that in my estimation is on a par with the work of filmmakers like Fellini, Bergman and Kubrick.

It’s a movie that pushes cinema in a bold, uncharted direction where most modern writers and directors fear to go. It is a breathtaking adventure.

The Bardo mentioned in the title is a term from Tibetan Buddhism referring to a spiritual state between death and rebirth. Knowing this might make the movie a little more understandable from the outset, but not knowing it only means that you will be led down a path of discovery.

Bardo is surreal from the get-go. It wastes no time setting a tone that is a clear departure from reality.

The opening scenes are bizarre and puzzling. But by the end of the film, everything comes full circle. Things make sense, to some degree, though it’s a lot to wrap your mind around. What is clear is that Bardo is more intent on raising questions than explaining anything. It’s up to us to try to make sense of it. In that regard, it’s a lot like life itself.

The beauty of Bardo is the depth of the work. It seems to touch on everything: life, death, love, hate, politics, religion, philosophy, essentially everything that we grapple with over a lifetime as human beings on this planet.

It’s an existential tale -- a tale of love and laughter, loss and grieving, and our never-ending, struggling, ultimately unsuccessful attempt to grasp the real meaning of life. If there is one.

It is a dreamscape of a movie that creates an alternate reality that is equal parts consciousness and sub-consciousness. It’s a mosaic of one man’s life experience.

That man is journalist/documentary filmmaker Silverio Gacho played by Daniel Gimenez Cacho, who finds himself being swept away in a stream of experiences from his past that catapult him through the experiences that make up this story. It’s a journey of deep discovery.

Bardo is a beautiful film, gorgeously shot and masterfully edited. It is a powerful film that charts its own radical course on its own terms, and never gives way to convention or tradition.

Despite the 2-hour 39-minute running time, it manages to create a hypnotic -hold of pure fascination that is never boring or overplayed.

What’s required here is the courage to approach Bardo with an open mind and a spirit as free as the heart and soul of this movie.

Bardo reminded me of movies like Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (2011) from the standpoint of its radical departure from traditional narrative film. Like that movie, Bardo visualizes a character’s thoughts and dreams and imagination in a way that cinema is uniquely able to present and explore, though it rarely does.

And that’s what is exciting and exhilarating about this journey.

Strap on your seatbelt.

Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths is a jarring, occasionally jolting ride that requires your full attention as well as your ability to completely let go and become fully immersed in all its complexity, strangeness, beauty and wonder.


Bardo: False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths is in theaters now.

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