Biutiful - Alejandro González Iñárritu interview
The Mexican filmmaker talks about his new film Biutiful, Spain, Javier Bardem and fatherhood
‘The starting point for Biutiful was the character of Uxbal [played by Javier Bardem], who got into my head one day. I had listened to Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major and that had given me an idea for a tone and a mood. Then I had this image of Uxbal visiting a doctor and I started writing sketches of him. He’s a man in free fall, trying with dignity to find redemption in the last months of his life. The question is how can he find love, forgiveness and compassion in the toughest of circumstances.
‘Barcelona was the first European city I ever visited when I was 17 and working on a cargo ship, and I realised that Uxbal belonged to a particular part of Barcelona, the Santa Coloma district. Lots of different ethnic communities live there and the are quite separate from mainstream Spanish society. Conditions there are difficult to live in and I thought that would be a fascinating human context for Uxbal.
‘I’ve known Javier for 10 years, and we’ve been trying to work together for a long time. This was a great role for him, and he brings this extraordinary physical presence. He’s really committed to the details of the part, and he puts up with the fact that I can be unbearable as a director, because I insist on so many takes.
‘The visual architecture of Biutiful is the most sophisticated of all the films I have directed. Although we used real locations, I wanted to use lighting and editing to take the viewer deep into the unconscious of Uxbal. So there are surreal and hyper-realistic approaches, and alongside the social context, there are are metaphysical elements. What was interesting was blending all these contradictory styles together.
‘All my films are dedicated to members of my family, and this one is to my father. Fatherhood is such a big theme in this film: to me it’s a love story between a father Uxbal and his two young children. All the other aspects of the film are subordinate to this. I do think that the emotional weight of Biutiful has blinded some viewers to the beauty and complexity of the film. It’s full of compassion and forgiveness and I find Uxbal tragically heroic.’
Biutiful, selected release, Fri 28 Jan.