Alejandro Iñárritu

Alejandro Iñárritu

A Story by Doug Ordunio

A discussion of the acclaimed Mexican director


Alejandro Iñárritu is one of the most cutting-edge directors of today who inspires multi-leveled provocative stories which at the beginning of each movie seem unrelated, but grow into great significance. By the end, we come to an understanding of how the stories are related.


First, I will describe the most famous three of his films which are known as the Death Trilogy.  I will take them in reverse order because the most recent features the most popular American actors, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. It is titled Babel, and it was made in 2006.  There are four stories that are connected.  Like the Biblical tower of Babel, language becomes an important issue in each story.


The first takes place in Morocco. A peasant man gives his sons a Winchester rifle which he was gifted by another man. He presents it to his two young boys and tells them that they should use it to kill any marauding jackals that might be attacking their herd of goats. They know that the high-powered weapon should be able to hit a target 3 kilometers away.


The boys go off to protect the herd, but in the midst of messing around with the rifle, the son who seems to be the most proficient at firing the weapon takes aim on a distant bus. He fires and the bus slows down and changes direction.


We switch to Richard (Brad Pitt) and his wife Susan (Blanchett) are having lunch in Morocco. It is apparent they are from the States and that their children are at home. They eventually get back on the tour bus, which is taking them to some remote villages. Susan is struck in the neck by the errant bullet which shatters the window next to her. Out in the middle of nowhere, they have to seek aid where there are only primitive medical treatments. Plus, they don’t speak the language.


Back in America, the two children of Richard and Susan (one of whom is Elle Fanning, the sister of Dakota). They are being cared for by their Mexican housekeeper (who is an illegal alien). She decides to take them with her and her nephew  who drive on a day trip to Mexico so she can attend her son’s wedding.


We move to Japan and meet a young girl who is a deaf mute, and experience the frustrations she has with dealing with the youthful Japanese culture, especially the younger men who feel very superior to those they view as handicapped..


Ultimately, the stories are tied together in a remarkable way.  Music which is very atmospheric was written by Gustavo Santaolalla. 


The second of the three is 21 Grams (2003) and its principal stars are Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, and Benicio del Toro.  (The title refers to the stated claim that at the moment of death, each human being loses the equivalent of 21 grams of weight.)


We are introduced to Jack (del Toro), an ex-con who has found Jesus. He is trying to turn young minds to the Lord. He is married with two children.


Paul (Penn) is a smoker whose habit has landed him in the hospital. He is waiting with others for a heart transplant.


Cristina (Watts) is a married woman with two children. She is getting her life back on track.


Then comes the pivotal event! A horrendous hit-and-run car accident, in which Michael (husband of Cristina) and his two daughters are killed.  In the aftermath, she clears the way for his heart to be donated. The heart is given to Paul.


The rest of the film is even more devastating.


In the case of the first film, Amores perros (2000) (Love’s a b***h) the only film in Spanish with English subtitles, the crucial event is another car accident which occurs at the beginning of the film.  A young man is driving reckelessly through the streets of Mexico City. A friend is in the back seat tending to the driver's rather large dog which is bleeding. Others in a pickup truck are chasing him. He drives through an intersection and crashes into another car.  Then we go back a few days to see what brought him to being chased, and why the dog is dying?


Story two concerns a beautiful young model who is seen on a Mexican TV show. She is the focus of a major ad campaign by a company called Enchant.  Her boyfriend has left his family and they are now together in a new apartment he has set her up in, whose windows look out on a full-sized billboard of her Enchant ad.  She owns a small white dog named Richie. Then, the car she is driving is struck by the car mentioned above.


Story three concerns a bearded man with scraggly hair who is homeless and owns many dogs. He is a hitman for hire, and generally a corrupt police official arranges for his services.  He is exstranged from his wife as well as his daughter whom he still loves.  Then. he witnesses the above car accident, from which he surreptitiously rescues the dying dog,

which has been placed on the street.


Each of these three movies is an individually powerful statement and they are all unforgettable with deep resonances.  Santaolalla is the composer for all three.


Iñárritu’s newest film, Biutiful continues in a similar vein.

© 2011 Doug Ordunio

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Added on September 17, 2011
Last Updated on September 18, 2011
Tags: 21 grams, Babel, movie, film, Amores perros, love, death, loss


Doug Ordunio
Doug Ordunio

Tujunga, CA

I have been writing for a little while-- Please read and you might be entertained. Please don't send me tons of read requests. If you must send one, make sure it's your best stuff. From me, you will.. more..