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Talk To Her

By Paul J. Kowalski

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As part of AFI Fest's recent tribute to Spain's maverick filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, audiences were treated the opportunity to see 2002's "Talk to Her" on the big screen. The highly anticipated follow-up to "All About My Mother" (and Almodovar's most recent film before his newest venture "Bad Education") combines an intriguing, well-crafted narrative structure with powerful performances to deliver a captivating portrait of desperation, loss and obsession. Almodovar's script for the film won him the 2002 Academy Award for best original screenplay.

Almodovar's forte continues to be his uncanny ability to immaculately scrutinize characters with his camera lens. The film's crux relies on little other than the essential aspects of the human condition, the most enduring formula for the best psychological dramas. As "Talk to Her" unfolds, Almodovar devolves each of his central characters into their defining trait or dilemma, and commands our highest attention and reflection precisely because he refuses to shy away or stop short in his unflinching analyses.


We are introduced to the story of Benigno, for instance, as he goes about his nurse duties caring for a coma patient named Alicia. We meet Lydia, Spain's prize female bullfighter, and a travel-writer named Marco who, as the film's first scene suggests, has the habit of privately weeping when faced with artistic beauty. On the surface, these individuals pose no great dramatic conflict. However, as their worlds collide and Almodovar teaches us their histories by manipulating cinematic time through flashbacks and intertwining storylines, we continually return to the present with a renewed and refined sense of their psychologies. The film functions much like a filtration process - we start with a polite bundle of suggestions, and end with monomaniacal depictions of each character. Lydia struggles as a woman in a stereotypically male role, and moreover is in love with another man. Despite his best efforts, Marco cannot get his mind off a previous, long-time girlfriend. Most disturbingly, we learn that Benigno was enamored, to a startling extent, with the comatose woman he now tends to day and night. Here "Talk to Her" retains its most significant lesson: in its depiction of the inescapability of our subconscious and the undeniable fears or desires that, often to startling degrees and beyond our best remedy, lay claim to our waking lives.


The emotionally charged mood of the film, typical of Almodovar, results as much from the desperation of the characters as the director's use of archetypes such as water, and human and animal bodies to eke a guttural sensation from the viewer. Beautifully shot scenes of the bullfight, comatose women, dancing and performance, and particularly a brilliantly inserted short black and white film of a shrunken man having a uniquely intimate experience with his girlfriend, fuel the visceral temperament of the film. An underlying classical score by Alberto Iglesias seams any disparate elements together, and complements the action nicely.


Though "Talk To Her" delves into the darker depths of the human psyche, largely tending toward a study of melancholy and perversion, the film's conclusion leaves the audience with an unexpected sense of redemption. The film remains vital through this compelling picture of apparently normal characters discovering dark, complex interiors, and is well worth another look as an apex of one of Europe's foremost working directors.

If you would like to find out more information on "Talk To Her" you can visit their official website at: www.sonyclassics.com/talktoher                           

Published on Dec 31, 1969

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