Since seeing “Biutiful,” the film by Alejandro Iñárritu (left), I have wanted nothing more than to take my wife and daughters to see it. Last night I took my wife, and I was struck by the film even more forcibly than on first viewing. The imagery of the film is almost unrelievedly bleak, dirty, corrupt, yet the feeling it generates is a crescendo of beauty. There is literally nothing more beautiful about this film than the dedication at the end.
You will have to see the film to see the dedication, but the theme of it all is a father’s love, which shines through the darkest night and the corruption of sin. In that way, the film is a validation and model of the Christian world view.
Uxbal (Javier Bardem) lives in sin, and the word disgusting does not exaggerate the corruption of his life. In the film’s two and a half hours, which seem an hour shorter, you will see: ants crawling where they shouldn’t, moths gathering on a dirty ceiling, factory stacks belching pollution, a man pissing blood (twice). You will see human corruption almost without interruption: cheap sex, drunkenness, a riotously perverse nightclub scene, bloated bodies washing up on a beach. Uxbal’s life goes to hell while his spirit comes back to life.
His spirit revives and yours will soar because—and I’m giving away almost nothing here—very early in the film Uxbal learns that he is dying. So he is brought face to face with his own humanity and particularly with his love for his two children. They—the lovely pre-teenage Ana and the puckish, bed-wetting Mateo—are battered and bruised by their parents’ dreadfully destructive love-match. Yet they are left with something very tangible at the end of the film by which to remember their father, as Uxbal remembers his own. And they do love him, and he them.
There is a scene midway through the film that sums up everything I have said or could say. Uxbal and his lying, conniving, cheating brother have their father’s body unearthed and his coffin opened. While the brother walks out of the mortuary room in disgust, Uxbal stands over his father’s embalmed, pocked, but beautiful-for-all-that face, and he adores it for a few touching moments.
Of course, I have wanted my wife and daughters to see “Biutiful” because, for all my failings and even corruption, I am the father in their little family. And I don’t want to be forgotten either. Despite my own forgetfulness and theirs, I don’t want them ever to forget my love.
God must feel that way sometimes.
[My first impressions of “Biutiful” are here.]