The Spanish drama Biutiful, from filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel, 21 Grams), is a love story between a father and his children and the unexpected journey that life can take us on. Uxbal (Javier Bardem) is a conflicted man who struggles with fatherhood, love and spirituality amidst crime and the dangerous underworld of Barcelona. His tainted reality and inevitable fate work against him and make him something of a tragic hero, who is ultimately seeking forgiveness.
At the film’s press day, director/co-writer Alejandro González Iñárritu talked about his desire to make Biutiful a character-driven drama, not passing judgement on any of the individuals in the story, the struggle to find an American audience for a subtitled film, and finding more meaning in the fact that life is finite. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ INARRITU: That’s a good question. I actually can’t answer that specifically. It probably came from a question that I think has to do with what I would do, if I had 75 days left to live. What would be important? I think that was the trigger thought behind Uxbal.
What made you decide to write this film in chronological order?
INARRITU: I have to say that this was more lyrical. I didn’t adhere to any clockwork rules for plot. This was more like a fluid current that was taking me to different events and things that this guy was going through. The structure ended up being circular.
Do you think you’ll write that way again?
INARRITU: The first three films that I did were more plot-driven films and the events were what was moving the story forward. In this case, I wanted it to be a character-driven film. The character is the one who is navigating and things are moved by him. I liked that. It required another thing. I’m not saying that the other is not good, it’s just different. That’s the way I wanted to tell this story. It depends on the story that I will tell. Every story has to find the best way to be told.
How did you find the way to drive the story forward?
INARRITU: I tried to make the film through the point of view of one single character, which was Uxbal. But, honestly, I just want to splash some other elements or planets that would be orbiting around this sun. Very clearly, I tried not to lose the dramatic tension or the journey of this guy who is trying to put things together before he leaves. All those things included the extreme compassion, forgiveness and the moral decisions that he has to make, and all the things that he got back, as he’s losing his life. He got a lot of spiritual and moral things, while he’s physically fighting the war. That was the game that I was playing with.
Why did this film take such a long time to be released in theaters?
INARRITU: I don’t know why, but this kind of film is an autumn season film. There are summer films, there are spring films and this is an autumn film. Don’t ask me why, but all my films have always been released in the autumn, maybe because they’re more melancholy to people. That’s the way it works. In the United States, we struggled to get distribution. Unfortunately, in this country, there’s not a lot of people interested in foreign language films. Every time, it’s more difficult for foreign language films to survive here.
Would you prefer for your films to come out in the spring or the summer?
INARRITU: If I had a comedy, maybe. Next time I do a comedy, it will come out in the spring.
Was it important for you not to pass judgement on any of these characters?
INARRITU: In the script, I didn’t want to preach, blame, victimize or sanctify. I just wanted to show the migrants as complex humans with flaws and weakness, with good and bad things, and show that they’re parents and family men. I wanted to show them with everything, as they are.
This film is about all aspects of death. Don’t you think that’s a pretty tough topic for people in the States?
INARRITU: Yeah, people here are very thanatophobic. They don’t allow themselves to think about something that they know will happen. Most people don’t know where to start with that. I’m not saying all people are that way. It’s a big and complex country. But, people feel very uncomfortable thinking about that. All people know that they will die, but they don’t actually believe it. For me, it’s not about masochism to talk about death. For me, it’s about observing life through death, from the last point of it. Then, life has more meaning. It’s more enjoyable for me to know that life is finite. Knowing that, I would like to go to a party. When you get to the holidays, if you think that the holidays will be forever, you just take it for granted. But, if you know that you have just three days at the beach, you will be so happy to be there, every day. That’s what I am inviting. For me, it’s not about death, it’s about life and observing life differently.
INARRITU: I have a notebook and I know what decisions will be made in pre-production. Everything is pre-determined in the pre-production period. I visually design the whole thing and I know when things will happen. I make a lot of notes, so I technically have my storyboard. And, I storyboarded the chase scene because that included a lot of action, a lot of complexity and seven cameras. But, I had a long time first, to understand how the camera would enhance the point of view of these characters, where I should put the camera, and how the camera can enhance the emotional force and objective of the scene. And then, I sat down with the D.P. and we went scene by scene, knowing what we couldn’t lose or miss, in terms of the visual. I tried to really micro-observe every single scene and pre-conceive where the camera should be and what the camera should bring to the experience.
Do you have any idea what you’ll be doing next?
INARRITU: My next film will either be a comedy or a porn. I’m just waiting for some hot actress to call me, so that I can cast her.
Biutiful will open for a one-week Oscar qualifying run in New York (Sunshine) and Los Angeles (AMC Century City) on December 29, 2010. Biutiful will open in approx. 10 markets on January 28, 2011.