The Phantom of Liberty
Alejandro G. Iñárritu: 5 Films That Liberated Me as a Filmmaker
Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Filmmaker

"I'm so bad at killing things that I love," bemoans the filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu. In this instance, he's talking about narrowing down the list of films that have inspired him throughout life to five. "Because obviously you know that reducing to five is almost [impossible]!"

Iñárritu is a five-time Oscar winner (with seven total nominations) who was first recognized when his 2006 film Babel was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director, becoming the first Mexican director to be nominated for the latter. In 2015, he won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), and then the next year, he won Best Director again for The Revenant. Iñárritu's most recent Oscar win came in 2018, a special achievement award for his virtual reality short, Carne y arena.

His latest is Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths. The film is Iñárritu's first to be shot in Mexico since 2000's Amores perros earned international acclaim, and is about a renowned filmmaker who, after winning a prestigious international award, returns to his home country and experiences an existential crisis.

"This film is the sum of everything that I have seen and everything that I have read, honestly," says Iñárritu. "I have been impacted, influenced, and I'm made up of all these great books, and films, and music that has imprinted on me. I think we all are made of that. Nobody is individual, we are just imprinted on, and then we make it our own. I want to recognize that first."

For Bardo, he took inspiration from Wojciech Has' The Saragossa Manuscript and Alexander Sokurov's Russian Ark, specifically. But, when it comes to Iñárritu's approach to filmmaking itself, "There are some films that really were important and liberating films," he says, "that allow me and encourage me to explore film in my own way."

Below, he shares with A.frame five films that he finds liberating.

MORE: With 'Bardo,' Alejandro G. Iñárritu Returned Home After 20 Years (Exclusive)

1
You, the Living
2007
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Written and directed by: Roy Andersson

Roy Andersson is one of my favorite filmmakers ever, and the Roy Andersson film that I love most is one that is called You, the Living. For me, it is one of those iconic films. I like very much Songs from the Second Floor, and the last one of the pigeon [A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence] is fantastic too, but I have a special love of You, The Living. It feels, for me, like a masterpiece.

I want my films to be paintings, to be moving paintings on this big canvas with wide lenses. I want that, and I think somebody that has inspired me a lot in that, to be brave and to really paint with foreground, middle ground, and background in a massive, beautiful way, with the control of the light, is Roy Andersson. If you see his film, his camera is always static, but the depth of field and the amount of detail and what every layer of every frame is. And how he plays the vulnerable soul of human beings, how fragile we are, and how absurd we are. There's something very beautiful about the substance of it, and the execution is just a masterpiece.

2
The Phantom of Liberty
1974
The Phantom of Liberty
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Where to Watch: The Criterion Channel

Directed by: Luis Buñuel | Written by: Luis Buñuel and Jean-Claude Carrière

I love the trilogy of Luis Buñuel. I think the three films are very important, so if I can name this as one film. Because at that age, Buñuel had proven everything. Those were the last films in his career, and I feel that he liberated himself from any form, any border and dissolved every conception of genre or anything. The Phantom of Liberty — which is an incredible name, The Phantom of Liberty! — and this film is that. When you grasp that amount of freedom and liberty in filmmaking, it arrives to a subconscious language of dreams and freedom that is just outstanding. That film and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, those two films as part of the trio, really are films that any filmmaker that can see that, it will liberate you from rules, and boxes, and these rational demands that nowadays are so en vogue.

3
Playtime
1967
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Where to Watch: The Criterion Channel

Directed by: Jacques Tati | Written by: Jacques Tati and Jacques Lagrange

Playtime is another film that was important for me in terms of serving the huge canvas, and how he used audio and the minimal story, how form and style are attached with the substance of anything. The world he creates in Paris, and the themes that he's talking about just in silence, with the audio narrative that he domained, I think, is a masterful film of design, of visual. It's a visual experience, 100%. Again, that was super inspiring to see how far you can roll just with the domain of every frame at that scale.

4
1963
8 1/2
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Directed by: Federico Fellini | Written by: Federico Fellini, Tullio Pinelli, Ennio Flaiano and Brunello Rondi

That film has inspired and gave courage to all filmmakers to be brave enough to be able to talk about our own psyche and subconscious and fears. Fellini really taught all of us that alchemy of putting the camera inside and look inward, and then, going out and making that dream. Like, the greatest novels ever are out of fiction, and how they look in, and then, they bring that in fictional way. That's the best literature you'll ever read. And I think Fellini showed us the way for filmmakers.

5
Wild Strawberries
1957
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Written and directed by: Ingmar Bergman

Wild Strawberries is just such a master exploration of the seeking. Bergman, like Fellini, was exploring his own fears, his own demons. There's some sequences that are super inspired, and I think they have inspired every filmmaker in the world. They're that significant.

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