The Urban Environment of Mexico City, As Presented in Amores Perros
Amores Perros represents the feature film directorial debut of Alejandro González Iñárritu and was written by Guillermo Arriaga, the craftsman behind such acclained Hollywood successes as 21 Grams and Babel. It is perhaps no surprise then that this pairing, of inspired passion and experienced creativity, resulted in a film that won 52 of the 69 total awards for which it was nominated world-wide, including the Ariel Award for Best Picture from the Mexican Academy of Film and the Critics Week Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. But it is more than exceptional filmmaking that is responsible for the critical success of this film. Depicting the social and economic stratification of life in modern day Mexico City, Amores Perros exhibits a host of cinematic techniques whose aim is to join form to content in an effort to convey the fractured nature of, and fracturing effects on, the individual and the family that life in this particular urban environment creates.
The film takes the form of a triptych, (a composition made up of three parts). These three stories represent the three general levels of life in Mexico City. The first story explores what amounts to working class life in Mexico City. It depicts a quality of life determined by and confined within the economic limitations that are a fact of that social sphere. The second story sets itself to convey an upper class life that amounts to little more than a veneer of wealth, while the third story examines both the confined nature and the inherent freedom of the underclass of Mexico City. But, beyond a simple explication of these disparate levels of society in this capital city, the film also strives, by the ways that it intertwines these three stories, to show how these levels of society are both mutually interdependent, and, ultimately, inextricable, one from the other.
Story I: The Working Class
The first story opens with a chaotic car chase, and we’re introduced to one of this story’s two main characters, Octavio, who is driving, and his dog Cofi, who is bloody in the back seat, while Octavio’s friend Jorge desperately attempts to stem the bleeding, as the three flee from gun-toting thugs through the streets of Mexico City. Immediately, the turbulent, life-or-death nature of working class life in this city becomes evident. The chase ends with Octavio barrelling through a red light and plowing into another car.
As the story unfolds through flashbacks, we learn that Octavio has decided to give up life as a high school student to enter his dog in the local dogfights. Living at home with his mother, his unstable brother Ramiro, and his brother’s wife Susana and their young infant, Octavio is driven to pursue this illicit activity by his growing infatuation with his brother’s wife, and his desire to run away with Susana and make a life for them. But with no hope that his education will bring him a job by which he can support a family, Octavio sees no other choice but to fight his dog for money and hope that his newfound wealth will prove to Susana that he can be the man of a household. His choice here is the clearest summation of the way working class life is depicted in this film. Unable to find a legal avenue to assure a financially stable life, a working class person’s only recourse is to step outside of the law.
Octavio’s brother reaches the same conclusion only in a more extreme fashion, as dictated by his sociopathic personality. He moonlights from his job asa supermarket clerk as an armed robber whose crimes eventually get him killed. Prior to that, though, a more subtle indictment of working class life in Mexico City is explored through the burgeoning relationship between Octavio and Susana. Octavio is unable to recognize that he is misreading Susana’s need for the comfort and understanding she is not getting from her husband for a reciprocation of his...