#283 Talk To Her

(2002, Pedro Almodovar)
Hable con ella

“Love is the saddest thing when it goes away”

Based on this week and last week, it seems that Thursday is now Spanish movie day, so expect Spanish movies both this week and last week, and then never see another Spanish movie for months. Hurraaaaay!

Anyway, Talk To Her is a movie from arguably the most critically-acclaimed director from the nation, Pedro Almodovar. It focuses on two intertwining relationships, one about a reporter, Marco (Dario Grandinetti), and his relationship with bullfighter, Lydia (Rosario Flores), and the other about a nurse, Benigno (Javier Camara), and his comatose patient Alicia (Leonor Watling). The two men cross paths after Lydia is hospitalised, and Marco gradually learns of the unusual relationship between Benigno and Alicia.

Talk To Her is a very oddly-structured movie. Much of its running time is particularly drab, with even scenes such as Lydia being gored by a bull being rather humdrum. Much of the movie is just people talking about things and everything feels rather disjointed.

In fact, I found it very hard to get into the film at first, since it did little to make me care about its characters. At least, in terms of Marco and Lydia. I get that we’re supposed to feel Lydia’s struggle as she tries to be successful as a female matador while she’s often criticised due to her gender, but much of this is kind of stated to us and we’re not shown much of her actual struggle to be taken seriously outside of an interview with a crazy feminist on television who doesn’t grasp that she doesn’t want to talk about personal relationships.

What’s more, Marco is a pretty dull character. Aside from his job as a reporter and the fact that he cries at weird plays about furniture, I couldn’t tell you any of his character traits. Which means the first half of the movie plods along following this empty vessel of a character.

But Benigno and Alicia, there’s a more interesting story, and one that can leave ambiguous feelings in the viewer. Initially we think that Benigno is a nurse with a particular degree of care for the patients he oversees, and comes across as very noble and sympathetic.

And then we learn more about him, and learn his relationship with Alicia prior to her being put in a coma, and the movie almost becomes a thriller. There are signs of this relationship whenever Benigno gives Alicia a sponge bath, but initially it’s easy to dismiss this as something mundane for him and only appearing sexualised, but then it becomes apparent that this sexualisation of a coma patient is very much intentional, and it all retrospectively becomes very creepy indeed.

This all comes to a head when the hospital begins to suspect the same things as the audience, and his whole life comes crumbling down as a result. Benigno is a difficult character to assess. The audience feels repulsed and unnerved by him while simultaneously feeling very sorry for him. He’s presented as a character who does some very weird and creepy things but is possibly not all there mentally and therefore doesn’t recognise what he’s doing. Which is actually a pretty awesome characterisation, if you ask me.

Sadly, this unravels a tad as we approach the end of the movie without learning the full truth of what happened in the hospital, and the power of love or something comes into play and some aspects of our characters’ lives improve without any apparent reason. It was all going so well.

There are other things within all this to note. A cut to a short film within the film gets extremely weird when a tiny man climbs inside a giant vagina and Marco and Benigno being portrayed as BEST FRIENDS FOREVAH by the end of the movie is kind of out of nowhere. Ultimately, this leaves me with a movie that was just a load of peaks and troughs in terms of its plot.

Overall, Talk To Her is a very ambiguous movie with some great ideas but it struggles to be truly great because of its early plodding nature and because its love of being utterly vague about everything can get in the way of the story at times. Basically, if I was to talk to her about this movie, I’d say “it was alright, I guess.”

Starring Javier Camara, Dario Grandinetti, Leonor Watling, Geraldine Chaplin & Rosario Flores
Written by Pedro Almodovar
Produced by Agustin Almodovar & Michel Ruben
Music by Alberto Iglesias
Cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe
Edited by Jose Salcedo

Favourite Scene: The ambiguity of Benigno’s actions towards the end of the movie.
Scene That Bugged Me: Much of the early scenes felt out of place and somewhat awkward.

Watch it if: You like vague Spanish cinema
Avoid it if: You’re expecting a movie more overtly about bullfighting

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Posted on May 9, 2014, in 2000s, Drama, Spain and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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