Greetings again from the darkness. Not many writers/directors would put their two lead actresses in a coma for most of the movie. But then Pedro Almodovar has never been one for a conventional approach. His creative, challenging and visual story telling is at its peak with Talk To Her. The Dallas Film Society provided an opportunity for me to revisit this one for the first time since my initial viewing in 2002. A rare Best Original Screenplay Oscar winner for a Foreign Language film, those eleven plus years have not even slightly dulled the impact.
It’s typically pretty simple to determine what genre a particular film falls into. Somehow Almodovar walks (and writes) a fine line between love story and horror story … comedy and tragedy. Always an expert at writing interesting female characters, this time he shows the women are the stronger force even while comatose! The male leads are the ones suffering and dealing with loneliness. Javier Camara as Benigno is both likeable and suberbly creepy as Alicia’s (Leonar Watling) caregiver. Dario Grandinetti is stunning as Marco, whose stoic personality can reach dimensions most actors can’t touch. His scenes with Lydia (Rosario Flores) and Benigno are unlike anything ever seen on screen.
The film begins with a ballet piece featuring the amazing Pina Bausch (you should see the 2011 documentary Pina), and the rest of the film features similar pacing … each individual scene and even the film score create the feel of watching a ballet. There is even a fantasy/faux silent movie sequence within the movie that will cause uneasiness and nervous laughter … while Almodovar again makes the point that the force of women can literally consume a man.
In addition to terrific performances by Camara and Grandinetti, the flashback sequences really allow Ms. Watling (as a fresh-faced dancer) and Ms. Flores (as a confident bullfighter) to prove why these men fell so hard. One other actress adding interest is Geraldine Chaplin (daughter of Sir Charles) as Alicia’s dance instructor. Her presence helps tie in the flashbacks and present tense.
While most writers tie up stories with a pretty bow, Almodovar purposefully challenges us to think and feel and dig into our own thoughts and beliefs. He is brilliant (and a bit annoying) with his persistence in making us work so hard. There are decisions coated in gray, rather than black and white. There are characters who we want to like, but maybe/probably shouldn’t. Pedro’s use of color and texture is fascinating. This is an example of a master filmmaker at the peak of his craft. Sure, he has many other excellent films (Volver, All About My Mother, Broken Embraces), but if you only get one Almodovar, make it this one.
**NOTE: The priest in the wedding ceremony is played by Agustin Almodovar, Pedro’s brother and the film’s producer
watch the original trailer: