Thursday, 10 February 2011
In Biutiful Alejandro González Iñárritu’s stark, poverty ridden vision of Barcelona paints a heavy veil of misery from the start that continues to haunt to the end.
Javier Bardem is excellent as the world weary, mournful Uxbal, he walks with his head down, shouldering his burdens. He suggests umbrella selling as a way to earn money and the reply is that it never rains in Barcelona. But for Uxbal it does rain, a storm of anguish and misfortune that at times becomes difficult to watch. As we see him try to put his affairs in order everything goes wrong for him. Perhaps if it had just been Uxbal it would have been easier to stomach but Iñárritu throws everything at the audience, person after person struggles – nothing is easy for anyone and there’s never any let up or humour just a bleak, desperate struggle to survive.
Uxbal isn’t a hero, he isn’t even a nice person on the surface of it; he exploits people in desperate situations for his own profit. But there is something incredibly human about him. Iñárritu doesn’t encourage us to question him or look for answers; his actions are never explored or excused. Uxbal can see the dead and there is knowledge of an afterlife but it offers no solace or answers. Uxbal doesn’t find himself in his situation because of a higher deity; his actions and manipulation of those in need is never judged in that way. Buitiful doesn’t ask us to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and makes for a brave and unsentimental tale.