Pedro Almodovar, in his recent films Talk to Her (Hable con Ella) (2002) and Live Flesh (Carne Trémula) (1997), has brought a thoroughly modern interpretation to the genre of melodrama. These fresh illustrations of human love, loneliness, frustration and individuality explore the complexity of human interaction and interestingly, in Talk to Her, the interactions of the sentient in relation to the insentient. "Nothing is simple," Alicia's ballet teacher muses in Talk to Her, this statement accurately captures the essential Pedro Almodovar style.
Both of the works selected for analysis in this essay are melodramas. The word "melodrama" originated from the Greek root which directly translated means "music drama". These films do incorporate music to add to the emotional impact of certain scenes. Examples of this are: (a) in Live Flesh! When Victor is watching TV in prison and sees Elena and David celebrating David's new career, there is a close up of Victors face conveying his hurt accompanied by music in-keeping with Victor's frame of mind. This increases the impact for the viewers as the music is in contrast with Elena and David's joy. (b) in Talk to Her the same tense, measured music is used during several scenes to denote their importance in the narrative (when Benigno is about to speak to Alicia for the first time, at the beginning of Lydia's last fight and when Marco is rushing to the prison in an attempt to stop Benigno from taking drastic measures in prison.)
The use of intertextuality in these films is also apparent. The newsreel of the coverage of Victor's birth is significant. Victor's mother appears cold and restrained compared to the intimacy the audience achieves in the scene prior as we hear her cries from her labour pains. In Talk to Her the opening and closing performance art pieces are an outlet for the emotional pain and turmoil which Marco must grapple with. The silent movie too expresses more efficiently what is occurring for Benigno on an emotional level than a depiction of the act of rape could have.
Apart from the use of music, colour is integral to Almodovar's melodrama. In Live Flesh! the walls of the apartments where the characters live, as well as the school where Victor and Elena work, are warm and vibrant. The contrast between dark green and deep reds and mustards provide a cosiness that puts the viewer at their ease. The hospital in Talk to Her is painted sienna-mustard and gray-green. Almodovar explains "I wanted to avoid convention. No coldness, no bluish tones I told Javier (the director of photography for Talk to Her). It's like their [the characters'] home. I didn't want the spectator to be faced with an atmosphere of pain or illness. What I wanted to show was the everyday life of some people who live there."
The use of colour is also instrumental in Pedro Almodovar's pop-art style. The incorporation of classical Catholic-themed oil paintings in Elena's bedroom and also the images Lydia's sister is arranging in the hotel before the bull fight are examples of the pop-art movement. Almodovar was a significant influence on the emerging culture of Spanish youth since the 1980's. Almodovar's exploration of issues such as the drug culture in a non-traditional manner is evident in both movies. The narrative does not directly comment on Elena's addiction to freebase cocaine and gratuitously Sancho asks David if he has any cocaine because "coke dries your tears". The film's ideology seems to condone David's cannabis smoking as a healthier alternative to Sancho's drug of choice, namely, alcohol. Marco can be seen to be smoking a joint while he looks on at Benigno, Alicia and Alicia's ballet teacher on their balcony, in Talk to Her too.
This is significant in that it is an example of the liberalisation of Spanish culture since the death of Franco and the emergence of Spain from that dictatorial, repressive regime. The exploration of the body and sexuality are recurring themes in...
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