A far while back I started a showcase on the 23 best film directors working in the industry today, in this article I will study the impact of of Oscar winner Alejandro González Iñárritu.
An immersive director with an exceptional portfolio of masterful work all with one characteristic in common, impact, an impact to astound, to dramatize to a substantial degree and shock with selected great camera work.
The director in question started out with two shorts before moving on to his first feature film and undoubtedly his greatest work ‘Amores Perros’.
Released in the year 2000 it told three intertwining stories about love, loss and dogs, but not in the way some people may think, Alejandro left the shock factor in for all to see, depicting some extremely graphic scenes that I cannot mention due to the spoiler of the film and its main plot, but within the film one substantial event causes the catastrophic drive that immerses all three prime characters, he explored how love could cause people to act in certain ways, this isn’t exactly a romantic comedy, it’s as harsh as a tragic drama can be, its reality, so distressing you may even forget you’re watching a film at all but witnessing an unrelenting feature which launched Alejandro in the limelight in his chosen continent of South America, the feature of real life.
Three years later came his first Hollywood feature film starring Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro, ’21 Grams’ told the story of a fateful accident which brought together these three people. A prime feature of Inarritu is combining characters and using them very well to drive a plot of a film, the unique factor of this film is that it was shot purely from hand held cameras in chronological but the final cut itself is not even chronological, which perfectly displays the prowess of storytelling by the director. Not quite as shocking as his previous feature back in 2000 but still as distressing, which is a phenomenal characteristic of the creative, truly magnifying the pain of the actors on screen to produce an engrossing feature such as ’21 Grams’ the title itself is taken from the work of Dr. Duncan MacDougall in the early twentieth century, he measured several dying objects portraying that the soul weighed 21 grams. There is certainly soul in this feature of Alejandro’s and it is a must watch for anyone who has not seen it.
In 2006 ‘Babel’ was released, featuring notable cast members including Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and the award winning Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal. The film tells the story of a tragedy which has an impact on four different families. Inarritu manages yet again to connect the lives of people across four different continents which in this film include North and South America, Asia and the Middle East, what is in fact interesting about this film is how seamlessly strangers can connect through harsh circumstances, yet again reflecting reality as part of the directors art, that is the impression that this director gives and the results he produces in this film are superb, it is not certainly a weak film from him but one he could have elaborated more on, take nothing away from him, still masterful from the Mexican artist.
Just four years later came his first work focusing solely on one main protagonist, the film ‘Biutiful’ which starred Javier Bardem in what is perhaps one of his best ever roles since his Oscar winning one in ‘No Country for Old Men’ back in 2008.
Set in Barcelona it tells the story of Uxbal played by Bardem as he struggles to deal with his crumbling life around him, the more and more we delve into his character the scarier we see the spiral that is surrounding him and the effect it has on those around him. The film was also written by Inarritu so it gives him the extra emotion to truly amplify his importance both in dialogue spoken and camera work selected for true substantial effect, quite definitely worth a watch but can be very unsettling for those not used to the directors’ style.
‘Birdman’ followed next in 2014 which earned him his first Oscar and propelled him into the Hollywood limelight, the same effect it had on Alfonso Cuaron when he made ‘Gravity’.
To be honest it is not certainly his best work but it is a distinctive piece of work for the actors he chose to be in it, it’s quite unconventional to say the least following a Murphy’s Law-esque type of approach of anything that can go wrong does. I did enjoy this film in the sense its certainly the most comic one he has done, Alejandro may not be famous for this genre of film type as drama does exist in this film too with a hint of surrealism, his relationship with Michael Keaton worked very well, thrusting Keaton further and using his Batman background as groundwork for this film and an homage too. The relationship and chemistry of the actors on screen is brilliant also, using the theatre both front and back of house to drive the plot of the film along with the disastrous results that come from it.
Already a glowing portfolio Alejandro G Inarritu had one more name to cross of his list of having worked with, and who better than one of the greatest of his generation Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Revenant’.
Inarritu wanted to reflect a new reality, a new harsh truth on screen and its poetry that his films had made on the past, with this film he utilised that to its fullest every effect, putting not just the protagonist but the entire personnel who worked alongside him in this film through their paces and making them suffer but always with an extraordinary outcome in mind.
Working alongside a great cinematographer too in ‘Emmanuel Lubezki’, Inarittu showed us some spectacular scenery and natural lighting to fully immerse us in the novel of Hugh Glass and his vicious bear attack as well as his vengeance and survival. This is certainly one of his greatest efforts, unquestionably in his top three films, with this feature he managed to create an astonishing experience while draining the life out of DiCaprio, it was brutal, malevolent and exponential.
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu manages to get the best out of the talent he works with, not only that he manages to make them go beyond, which makes him go beyond his vision and consciousness, his auteur style can be identified from a large distance, his portfolio of films tell us this, his poetry within them, their raw emotions, their harsh truths and distressing depictions the directors stories he has chosen to showcase on screen, an absolutely meticulous artist that still has saved his greatest work for last I am sure, a shining example to aspiring directors who wish to apply poetry to moving art in motion.
“When we are looking for validation that will never satisfy us, when we are looking for affection, for love, a little bit of that will be enough to be complete..”
– Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu