Alejandro González Iñárritu is a director best known for human tapestry films like Amores Perros and Babel that intertwine parallel stories and multiple characters.
Yet, his latest movie, Biutiful, focuses on a single protagonist: a father and low-level criminal dying of cancer in an impoverished area of Barcelona. For Iñárritu, taking a more conventional narrative path was a challenging filmmaking experiment.
“On a certain level I felt like I was getting branded as the guy who melts together many stories,” Iñárritu told Metro. “There was a danger of becoming predictable and I needed to try something different. I felt like the most experimental way for me to tell a story now was in a traditional linear way.”
The director wrote his first linear screenplay with a specific actor in mind: Javier Bardem
“There was no question who would play the role,” claimed Iñárritu. “He’s a strong man with a very delicate soul and that was crucial to the character I was trying to create. He’s a street guy given a spiritual gift and I knew Javier would be perfect. ” The choice was inspired and led to Bardem securing an Oscar nomination last week for his remarkable work.
At its core, Biutiful is an exploration of a man coming to terms with his own mortality, a theme of great personal significance for the filmmaker.
“I think that it’s only when we accept death as part of the experience of life is when we stop fearing life,” explained Iñárritu, who dedicated the film to his dying father who inspired the project.
“My father is 80 years old and I’m very close to him, but he is quite sick. I think that the way Javier’s character is able to communicate tenderness through very difficult circumstances comes directly from my father.”