Questions about "Biutiful" with Javier Bardem (open spoilers)

This is another one of those movies that I’ll have to say was very well made, but that I can’t really say I enjoyed. I’ll have to think about it more to determine whether I thought to was a “good” movie.

But I have some questions:

  1. The young guy in the snowy forest – that was Uxbal’s father, right?

  2. At the end, who was the ghost floating up against the living room ceiling just before Uxbal went back to bed to die?

  3. Ige was shown taking the money and going to a train station. But later, when Uxbal was in the bathroom, a shadowy figure went by and Uxbal spoke to it – she replied that she was Ige and that she had returned – but she was not shown clearly and she was not shown for the rest of the movie. Did Ige really come back, or was Uxbal imagining it?

  4. I understand that Uxbal’s wife was suffering from bipolar disorder, but was there anything else? Was she also an alcoholic? Was she really a masseuse or was she also a prostitute?

  5. Did the heaters malfunction or were they just not suitable for indoor use in the first place?

  6. The guy at the cemetery said that Uxbal’s father’s body had been embalmed in Mexico, but decades later would the body really be so well preserved when it hadn’t been submerged in formaldehyde or kept in airless or cold storage?

  7. What was the point of the scene in the nightclub/strip club? Were there really women wearing fake breasts over the heads and on their buttocks or was he imagining that?

  8. The Chinese guy – did he kill his lover just to keep him quiet or for some other reason?

Maybe more questions later.

  1. What were the dark butterfly-like things on the ceiling of the bedroom? I noticed they were gone in the final scene.

I agree wholly with the “well-done but not entertaining.” I love Inarritu’s films and I’d rather see a good movie rather than an entertaining one any day. My girlfriend who saw it with me calls it the best movie she’s ever seen but she can’t tell why and I believe it has to do with her being Hispanic and understanding the culture more. I’ll take a stab at your discussion points with you.

  1. Yes, that’s his father. There are a couple ways to look at his father’s presence:

a. Not remembering his father was always a source of unrest in Uxbal’s life and one of his greatest fears for his children. Seeing his father was meant to be a way of bringing peace to his life and helping him move in. Interpretation a. is that his father may have also had the “gift” and was literally helping Uxbal move on, either by Uxbal communicating with him or he to Uxbal.

b. Interpretation b. is less radical. Seeing his father was something that Uxbal’s mind needed and his father wasn’t actually present but rather imaginative.

  1. I didn’t catch a very great glimpse but I believe it was Uxbal himself. As he was getting near the end you see Uxbal sitting near the bed and it’s not a stretch to believe he would also have been on the ceiling.

  2. I believe “the shadowy Ige” was to create two endings and to allow the viewer to choose which one he wanted. She left, she stayed, both have good arguments:

a. She comes back, i.e. “the happier ending.” First bit of evidence is the fact that she is shown returning and responds to Uxbal. Uxbal saw things corresponding to his “gift” but was not altogether hallucinogenic so it’s very possible it is her. Also, Ige is portrayed as a morally good character through her relationships with Uxbal and the children so her desertion is less likely, especially considering her husband would condemn her for screwing over Uxbal and his children.

b. She leaves, i.e. “the ‘this sucks’ ending.” She isn’t clearly shown is less important than something simpler: where’s Mateo? Ige took them both to school but Ana came home so that explains her in the final scene, but Mateo who is sharing a room with them isn’t shown. So either he may be asleep on the floor, or he was never picked up. I find it unlikely Uxbal even in his state wouldn’t go get Mateo, but if that is the first time Ige comes back she wouldn’t have picked him up so late.

I solely believe that Inarritu meant these contradictions less for the viewer to determine if she left or not and more to allow the viewer to choose which way he’d prefer. I still cannot choose because I can’t dismiss the other.

  1. She likely was an alcoholic as when she offered Uxbal something to drink she followed up with “I haven’t been drinking it.” A non-alcoholic wouldn’t be so defensive. And she would definitely appear to be more than a masseuse but her not wishing to kiss Uxbal’s brother suggest that sex is not part of her “job.” I still would not be surprised if she was a prostitute as well, just maybe not with kissing or with her husband’s brother.

  2. They were likely just bad heaters. I suppose that would be closer to not suitable for indoors, but I would just consider them not suitable. Uxbal himself said he knew they weren’t right.

  3. Can’t help you there. I know it’s important for Uxbal to see his father’s face to remember him but as to whether it would still be in the condition it is I have no clue.

  4. As said earlier Uxbal was not a very hallucinogenic person and it is a strip club so I think they really did have fake breasts on their heads. They were also shown before he started doing coke.

  5. When I saw the movie it looked like the older man killed the younger man but my girlfriend says otherwise. Either way, there were likely some jilted lover feelings.

  6. They were moths. Many spiritual practitioners often use moths an their animal totem, and the moths ability to move through the darkness is something Uxbal must do to move throughout the darkest days of his life. To me, they are symbolic for dieing. You see them slowly moving towards a corner of the room, becoming closer as Uxbal moves closer to his death. Moths are attracted to light, The Light is a popular event at death, Uxbal sees a bright light before his vision with his father, and so the moths can be gone because they have reached their objective.

I wrote this in a rush so I may not have elaborated as much as I would like but these are my general opinions.

I appreciate your thoughtful and detailed reply, Iridule. I wonder whether the SDMB community has not seen this movie.

Well, I’m not sure we agree to that extent. I think it’s a movie that’s worth seeing, but it’s not the kind of movie I’m going to see more than once, and I don’t think that “good” and “entertaining” are mutually exclusive. I’d prefer both. However, there are many times I would choose an “entertaining” movie over a “good” one.

I do think that this movie is very interesting, but I think it has a lot of flaws. For example, it makes Uxbal too “good” for a person in his position. His motives are never questionable, even when it’s clear that he’s responsible for the mishap with the heaters.

So which was it? Were they faulty (or of poor quality) or were they not meant for indoor use?

I have another question about the names Uxbal and Marambra. They seem unusual to me. Are they Catalonian names?

Truly. Grim movie. At some point I might be glad that I saw it, but sitting through it was tough.

It never dawned on my to questions whether Ige cam back. She was pretty clearly shown having second thoughts and it was well within her character to return. We heard her return. And I’m not sure needing to see her return is actually necessary, even if we do see her, she can still be a hallucination. I’m really not seeing much ambiguity here. Or maybe I’m clinging to one good thing happening in the movie.

The movie was well acted, directed etc. I find the individual pieces good…maybe even great, but I’m not sure I’d consider that “good” as a whole. It didn’t entertain. I didn’t find it particularly thought provoking. Maybe I’ll change my mind later, but right now, I wouldn’t recommend it.

I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who at the very least wants to see one of the greatest performances of the year, hell, the decade. Javier Bardem’s performance goes right underneath Daniel Day Lewis’s performance in There Will Be Blood in my eyes. His Oscar nomination is not only well-deserved, his performance is miles above anyone else nominated. I adore Colin Firth, love The King’s Speech, and will be happy for him when he wins, but really, IMO Bardem’s performance makes Firth’s look look like it’s from a high school play. He’s that good. As least he was nominated, there is that.

Everybody says the Danish film will win Best Foreign-Language film. I haven’t seen it so I can’t say, but I want Biutiful to win.

That was one tough film to get through, but it did make me think about the world a bit differently for a good while after. I think that’s the sign of a good work of art.

I honestly don’t think Uxbal was too “good.” He wasn’t even good at being a gangster, and could not ever give his family what they needed. He wasn’t actively malevolent or anything, but I think before he got sick he just never gave his life the thought that a life needs to be lived in a “good” manner.