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How ‘Bardo’ Captures a State of Mind Through Sound

At the IndieWire Consider This FYC Brunch, sound designer Martin Hernandez spoke about working on the Alejandro González Iñárritu film.

Wilson Chapman I

In Alejandro González Iñárritu’s newest film, “Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths,” a documentarian (played by Daniel Giménez Cacho) travels to his home country of Mexico for a party in his honor and struggles with an existential crisis. For sound designer and supervisor Martin Hernandez, creating the soundscape of the film meant using audio to capture the slippery nature of memory.

“More than a mental journey, I think this is a state of mind, which is a quite different thing,” Hernandez told IndieWire Crafts and Animation Editor Bill Desowitz at IndieWire’s Consider This FYC Brunch. “A state of mind is something that lingers in your memory. It’s something that is in you a long time ago, and it transforms you. Alejandro has this idea that we are not exactly the ones in the picture of you when you were a kid. We’re different people now. So translating that is very subjective, very challenging.”

On the film, Hernandez worked with sound editor Nicolas Becker, an Oscar winner for his work on “The Sound of Metal.” Hernandez felt that Becker, who is younger than both he and Iñárritu and from France, helped add a fresh perspective needed for the film’s sound design, as he and Iñárritu are around the same age and from the same area in Mexico.

“Our memories are quite related in that sense,” Hernandez. “The approach we had for the sound memory of the film was very similar. So having Nico and his crew, we couldn’t have been more blessed and lucky.”

The standout scene of “Bardo” is set in a dance hall, where the camera tracks the movements on the floor for several minutes. The crew shot the scene at the California Dancing Club (or El Palacio del Baile California) in Mexico City, a real 60-year-old dance hall. In shooting the sequence, the crew sought to recreate what the club looked like in its golden age. Hernandez, for his part, attempted to capture what the club’s acoustics actually sound like in the final film.

“We needed to have the actual resonance of how the music plays when you’re near the stage, or very far, or at the entrance, or at the aisle,” Hernandez said. “And then we brought in the dancers, and I wanted to record them, in all that different resonance. So a lot of what you’re hearing in that scene, sound-wise, is actually happening there, beyond dialogue.” “Bardo” is currently playing in select theaters and will stream on Netflix beginning December 16.


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