Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths Plot Synopsis
Directed and co-written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths is the director’s semi-autobiographical account of the life of Silverio (Daniel Giménez Cacho). As Silverio is about to accept a journalism award in the U.S., he returns to his home in Mexico and ponders the events in his life that led up to now.
What does ‘bardo’ mean?
“Bardo” is a Buddhist term, according to Merriam-Webster, for “the intermediate or astral state of the soul after death and before rebirth.” Iñárritu invokes the term in several ways throughout the film. It signifies the state of Silverio’s son Mateo, who passed away; the place between truth and fiction in Silverio’s docufiction and in Iñárritu’s own method of storytelling; and also the liminal experience of being an immigrant–explored through Silverio’s feeling of not belonging either to Mexico or the U.S.
Who is Silverio?
The protagonist of Iñárritu’s Bardo, Silverio is a Los-Angeles-based Mexican journalist and documentarian about to receive an award for his journalism in the US. Having lived for many years in the U.S. with his family, Silverio now returns to Mexico to celebrate his award.
As Bardo unfolds events of Silverio’s life with creative symbolism, it reveals the journalist’s existential crisis. While Silverio deals with grief of losing their baby son Mateo, he also wrestles with impostor syndrome–feeling the deep cut of criticisms from fellow Mexicans that he’s long catered to White Americans–and grapples with the fact that, by choosing to immigrate to the U.S., he’s taken from his children “everything that never was.”
Was all of ‘Bardo, A False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths’ a dream?
To repeat the phrase from Silverio’s daughter, much that transpires in Bardo is “everything that never was.” At the end of Bardo, Silverio suffers a stroke and falls into a coma. Again the film invokes the concept of “bardo,” revealing the events leading up to this point to be Silverio’s way of processing all the events that have happened in his life (and in a way, Iñárritu processing his own life through the fictional character of Silverio). The events are somewhere in-between real and not real.
How does ‘Bardo’ end? Does Silverio die?
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths closes with Silverio walking through the same Mexican desert from the beginning of the film. He first sees his mother, siblings, and even his dead father. His wife and children then appear, calling out to him. Silverio keeps walking forward, however, and tells them he’ll see them when he comes back.
Silverio starts running and leaping across the desert again. But this time, he doesn’t come back to the ground. As signified by his shadow, he floats away. Bardo’s conclusion is up for interpretation. Perhaps his leaving behind his family in the desert signifies the end of his coma and his death. Or, since all the events of the film have taken place inside Silverio’s head during his coma, his floating away could mean the end of “bardo,” this in-between state. Perhaps it is time–not for life as he has known it, nor for death–but for rebirth.
Read More: Bardo Movie Review