Alejandro González Iñárritu is one of the most appreciated and awarded contemporary directors. In this new appointment with Collyrium, we will discover what actually hides behind his important works.
Iñárritu was born in 1963 in Mexico City from a rich family which after a few years from Alejandro’s birth will lose everything. His father then decided to reinvent himself by changing profession as a fruit and vegetable retailer in order to obtain the necessary economic guarantees for his family. Despite such financial problems, the director still a child, grows happy and nurturing a strong feeling of admiration towards his father.
A little more than sixteen, Iñárritu will board a cargo ship for an around the world experience which will lay the foundation of his future career. It is indeed during these years on board that he dedicated to existentialism as a way to discover the world.
Back in Mexico the young man, not a director yet, graduates in communication and begins a career in the radio broadcasting world as a presenter, music critic and creating playlists: a very important career for Alejandro’s future creative process. Music will be fundamental in each of his films with Iñárritu often, especially in his early work, composing soundtracks with almost maniacal attention to detail. His path led him to direct small commercials, to found a television production company (which will become important in Mexico) and finally to meet the legendary writer Guillermo Arriaga, with whom he will collaborate as a screenwriter in the early part of his film production.
It is in fact with Arriaga that he will commit headlong into his first feature film: Amores Perros. The movie describes a segment of Mexican life seen through the prism of three different characters whose stories will cross for the most disparate reasons. Amores Perros, is also the first film in the Death Trilogy, a film which plot is based on the so-called butterfly effect which adopts the intertwined story strategy.
With this first film, Iñárritu is catapulted in the international spotlight, with an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film and Young Critics Award in Cannes. It is thanks to this extremely positive feedback that the Mexican director will have at his disposal a considerably higher budget for his second production, 21 Grams, which is this time shot in the United States with an exceptional cast formed by Sean Penn winning the Volpi Cup in Venice and Benicio del Toro and Naomi Watts in turn winning the 2004 Academy Award for Best Actor and Actress.
In 2006 at last Babel is presented, the final movie of the Death Trilogy which will end Iñárritu’s first production period. In this first phase, we see how the director chooses a fragmented narrative in which the protagonist’s stories, interpreted by great actors often giving up better-paid productions to act in a film by the Mexican master, intersect in the chain of events. The Death Trilogy, then, can be seen as a holistic and discouraging analysis of existence, where everything is related through being chaotic for humans.
Iñárritu’s second creative phase starts with Biutiful. Alejandro is now a world-famous director, whose talent is out of the question. Unfortunately, however, it is precise with his fourth film that a consistent and fruitful collaboration with Arriga will come to an end due to a dispute we know very little about.
Biutiful is a strong story that speaks of sickness and death, in which Javier Bardem is the undisputed protagonist bearing on his shoulders the movie’s emotional weight and giving us one of his best ever interpretations.
But the real moment of glory for Iñárritu comes with his second last effort, Birdman or: (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) which will earn Alejandro 4 Oscar awards: best film, best direction, best original screenplay and finally best photography. It is now important to point out that for Birdman and the subsequent The Revenant, the Mexican filmmaker will avail himself of Emmanuel Lubezki as director of photography a fellow countryman who proves to be a master of the technique; Birdman is in fact almost entirely produced as a hand-held long sequence shot (with only 16 framing changes) while The Revenant has been entirely filmed in the light of dawn in order to highlight a cold, unreal and almost dreamlike atmosphere.
But the director’s rise does not stop at his penultimate film as The Revenant proved to be a huge success in reviews, at the box office and by winning several Academy Awards including Best Actor for Leonardo Di Caprio, again best director and best photography. The plot is markedly different from the previous ones as, unlike his earlier works, this is a costume film, set at an end of 1800’s cold Missouri (actually shot in Canada and Argentina) where the survival and revenge theme reigns undisputed.
Iñárritu’s art is always full of surprises. His films speak to people’s heart and soul, often making us reflect on existence while avoiding being educational or arrogant.
Unfortunately, we still do not know what Iñárritu has in store for the future. In view of his highest level filmography, as you might appreciate, expectations are skyrocketing.