Amores Perros is a brutal look at the lives of three different people all connected by a devastating car crash in Mexico City. Presented as three separate stories, the film follows protagonists Octavio, Valeria, and El Chivo as their lives lead to, and are interrupted by, the central crash: part one focuses on Octavio’s infidelity with his sister-in-law, as he makes money in an underground dog-fighting ring; part two follows model Valeria as her new relationship is put under increasing stress; finally, the final section follows homeless hitman El Chivo as he witnesses the crash and becomes determined to make a better life for himself.
It should be stressed that this is a hard film to watch. The film’s opening images see a dog bleeding out from a bullet wound, and the graphic imagery doesn’t let up. Iñárritu’s film has a fatalistic feeling, its manipulation of time leading us down an inevitable path. The first section does not shy away from brutality in its graphic depictions of dog fighting, part of Octavio’s drug-fuelled quest for wealth. The success he experiences is at the expense of many innocent dogs. Unlike Octavio, Iñárritu’s camera refuses to look away from the violence that he has committed in order to fulfil his fantasies. Amores Perros‘ opening establishes a nihilistic tone, providing no reprieve for the audience.
While the plot centres on human drama, the key to the film is its dogs. The English title Love’s a Bitch directly ties the character’s relationships up with their canine counterparts. Octavio’s dog is forced to fight and could be killed at any moment, a vulnerability Octavio experiences within gangland culture. El Chivo, meanwhile, takes in stray dogs and protects them from the fighting rings. It is through saving Octavio’s dog that El Chivo begins to question the morals of his profession. Instead of killing his next assigned victim, El Chivo kidnaps the man, telling him that the dog “is the only reason you’re alive”. Canines are the catalyst for examining the true nature of the protagonists. Those who show mercy to the dogs are redeemable, whereas those who act cruelly towards them are punished.
Ultimately, Amores Perros is a tale of loss. Whether it be the death of a loved one or that of one’s dreams, the film’s characters are forced to face loss head on in its many forms. The world they inhabit is a harsh commercial metropolis hiding a seedy violent underbelly. Iñárritu’s framing device isolates the characters from each other, emphasising how they are alone in facing this cruel environment. They may remain physically separated, but are united in their woes. The world is filled with death, disparity, and pain. Iñárritu does not want you to forget that.
Watch a clip from the film below: