Last night, Iñárritu made history. But the accolades don’t matter to him.
In the last two years, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s existential, earthy films have swept the Oscars. In 2015, Birdman took home Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Cinematography. This year, The Revenant scored 12 nominations. Iñárritu took home Best Director, becoming only the third director ever to win the award back to back.
We talked to Iñárritu for the March-April issue of RELEVANT (which hits newsstands tomorrow). He is aware of his accolades and recognition, but they don’t seem to matter all that much to him. Instead, he says he’s far more interested in creating long-lasting works that reflects his spiritual and moral preoccupations. It’s the work, not the awards, that matter to Iñárritu.
If you’ve seen The Revenent (or Birdmad), you can recognize Iñárritu’s interest in exploring the diverse faces of humanity. He wants to dig into spiritual life.
“The factual thing that happened to Hugh Glass [Leonardo DiCaprio’s character] 200 years ago—of being attacked by a bear, being abandoned, and then the difficult, emotionally and spiritually painful survival quest he had to go through—got my attention,” he says.
“My question was: How would a man be shaped by that experience? What’s going on in the mind of somebody who has the will, the endurance and the resilience to survive? What makes people survive and fight? I felt this was a great opportunity to explore those themes, and to explore the idea of revenge, to understand how revenge works in a human soul.”
The Revenant was the biggest and most expensive film of Iñárritu’s career so far, with elaborate battle sequences, jaw-dropping natural settings and stunning special effects. But what makes the film memorable is the way it carries the same dramatic potency, spiritual rigor and interest in physical and psychological exploration that have always defined Iñárritu’s work.
These tensions are what drive him.
“As a filmmaker, the most important thing for me was the spiritual dimension of these journeys,” he says. “There is a very animalistic and primitive dimension to these people’s stories, but you can’t judge people—it’s a big mistake to judge people without understanding their context.”
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