The two very different Spanish films All about my Mother (AAMM) and Pan’s Labyrinth use complex narratives and character representations to explore gender ideologies. I would suggest that both films rely in part on dramatic moments of confrontation but also demonstrate a more subtle change over time; in this essay I will explain this view.
AAMM is a powerful melodrama, exhibiting many of Almodovar’s signature traits and exemplifying his exhuberant, challenging post-Franco style. As a melodrama, it is hardly surprising that there are many dramatic moments within the narrative and throughout the film we see various confrontational moments between the characters. For example, as Manuela enters Barcelona in a taxi there is a violently shocking scene which introduces us to Agrado as she is assaulted by a client. She is defiant in her response and in this way Almodovar sets his agenda: this is a film which challenges traditional gender roles and our perceptions of what is and what ‘should be’.
The scene is perhaps all the more shocking because up until this point, in Madrid, there has been high drama in the sudden death of Manuela’s son but her reaction to it is subtly presented and gender representations are far more traditional and in line with the hegemonic view. As Manuela’s somewhat passive quest to find Lola continues, the narrative is punctuated by various melodramatic moments of confrontation but Almodovar’s intention is clearly not merely to present a set of over-exaggerated characters in improbable scenarios and it is perhaps his subtlety that allows the film to communicate its real meaning.
Although Manuela is the main character and it is her actions which move the narrative along initially, it is perhaps through all of his characters and their intertwined experiences that Almodovar more fully explores...