16.1.11

Talk To Her

This one, even more than Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, was an uncomfortable watch. I don't much like romantic fantasies that ask you to sympathise with rapists. We should allow Almodóvar to explain himself, however:

'The point about Benigno's character is that he is completely innocent, in the sense that he does not have experience. He lives in another world. This world is parallel to the real world but it has its own rules. Sexual orientation probably does not exist in this world. He could have probably gone for any object of desire but it just happens that he becomes enamoured of that body in the hospital. Strangely enough, it is the film that brings that onto him. The film makes him recognise his desire and makes it real for him. That's why he is so shaken up by the film. It suddenly makes it real for him.'

Benigno (Spanish for 'benign'? A very cruel joke...) lives in an innocent world with different rules. What in our world is rape was for him an expression of love. That decision ensures his death, but it also brings his Sleeping Beauty back to life. Does that justify his transgression? What is Almodóvar trying to say? I get the feeling that our morality and Benigno's warped morality get so tangled that the film cannot take a stance anywhere. As Almodóvar says, Benigno's 'tenderness becomes almost asphyxiating'. We're tied in knots.

Almodóvar draws attention to the role of cinema in this crucial twist in the narrative, but what is its significance? Does it corrupt Benigno's innocent world? Does it reveal his unknown desires, and so produce self-knowledge? Again, the film does not, cannot, take a stance.

What to make of the two gentlemen in general? One moves but doesn't talk, the other talks but doesn't move. Neither listens. Almodóvar says he wanted to begin the film by 'telling the audience that there are going to be two women with closed eyes who will be facing this world full of obstacles.' They float around, beautiful, mysterious. The guys just care for them, talk to them, but do not really know them. That is their shared tragedy, and we are asked to sympathise. Should we?

I think Almodóvar wants us to:

'...for there to be a loving relationship it is only necessary for one person to love. For there to be communication within a couple, it is enough for there to be only one person who communicates or who really wants to communicate. Even though a couple consists of two people, if one of the people in a couple puts all their effort into moving a couple along they will move along.'

Almodóvar says this is a movie he 'needed to make'. It's a 'declaration of sadness, of melancholy'. It sounds like Almodóvar wanted to valorize the loneliness of talking to someone without getting a response. I have problems with that sentiment (and the horrible place it leads to!) which meant I could not enjoy this film.

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