March 17, 2009
Pedro Almodovar's "Hable Con Ella" or "Talk to Her"
Communicating with another being alleviates loneliness; that is a well known fact, but if the other being happens to be comatose...what then? Pedro Almodovar's movie "Talk to Her" addresses this 'what then' situation in a plot that flits between the past and the present; yet, has the audience flowing along with the fluidity and ease of a participant.
Two men nursing two comatose women; both claim to love the woman they are nursing , but their ways of caring are vastly different. There is one who 'talks' to his beloved constantly and keeps her current on all that interests her in the outside world: the movies/ the musicals she loves and which he watches only to give her a feedback on them. He is a selfless caregiver who worships his lovers body by tending to it as a mother would. On the other hand we have the other man, a writer, caring for his bull fighter beloved with a distant and stoic silence that isolates him from the audience and perhaps also from his comatose beloved; something he has to be made aware of. Both men face the harsh reality that their beloved may never regain consciousness, and yet they continue to be there in the medical facility with their loved one every waking moment. The two men meet while at the facility and establish a unique bond that outlasts their roles as care givers.
The two comatose women are just as disparate as are their circumstances and basically serve to bring out some strong emotions from the men who love them. The women come across as predefined characters who are very physical and hardly develop during the course of the movie. It is the two men with their loyalty and passion that make for the pace of the movie. Almodovar in and through this movie seems to be seeking an answer to a primal question about whether love is really a need, and whether loyalty is in fact what is labeled as love. In finding his answers Almodovar creates a tragedy that has at its center a character who we can't sympathize with, yet, we come out of the movie hall with a complete understanding of why he did what he did. There is a repugnance for the act he commits, yet there is empathy for the rationale behind the act. A movie maker who can tear the soul of his audience so, has to be master artist, and Almodovar certainly is.
There are sexually explicit scenes in the movie that might shock and even drive away a conservative viewer. In this Spanish movie (has English subtitles), Almodovar explores the boundaries of physicality almost to the verge of near absurdity, but the scenes have an artistic ethos about them, as they raise philosophical questions such as whether love is but lust in genial disguise, and whether loyalty is neediness camouflaged. Admittedly, both my brain and my heart were on overdrive throughout the movie, and I'm still not certain I was entertained as much as I was challenged by Almodovar's creation.
"Hable Con Ella" is a movie that entertains as it intrigues, and it is not for an audience with predefined sensibilities.