Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!

We might see the beginnings of an Almodóvar season developing here on the Hothouse, seeing as I've got a box set and I'm not afraid to use it. I've started with the earliest film in the collection, because I'm obsessive compulsive when it comes to these sorts of things.

How to read it? The film follows the 23-year-old Antonio Banderas, who is released from a mental hospital, finds the one night stand he's been obsessing over, and ties her up in order to make her fall in love with him. Banderas is a thief and a rogue, but a total romantic at heart. Eventually, after he undergoes a trial by pissed-off Madrid drug dealers, Victoria Abril's character succumbs to stockholm syndrome and they all live happily ever after.

...I mean, Christ! How DO you read this film??

I'm sure Almodóvar sees it very simply -- it's a romantic comedy, a fairytale. The finale is in a friggin' CASTLE, for pete's sake! But let's push that a little. Perhaps Almodóvar is suggesting that this pure, idealized romance can't find a foothold in modern Spain. Abril's character would just brush-off Banderas if he didn't resort to hand-cuffs and duct tape. True love in the big city requires extreme measures.

Banderas is a sweetheart. But am I being over-sensitive when I get uncomfortable with him punching Abril out? Should I just accept it when Banderas feeds Abril's drug habit without thinking of what is truly good for her, as her sister does? Banderas IS a sweetheart, but people who do this sort of thing in the real world AREN'T. Isn't the film being a little disrespectful to victims of domestic violence by overlaying their experiences with a romantic fantasy narrative?

I don't know. It's important to not get all moralistic when it comes to judging a work of art. But it's also important to admit when something makes you squirm. This love story is moving, and all the characters are fully realized and treated with sympathy. But I just can't get down with the 'forced to be free' tenor of the film's themes.

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