Released 2002. Director: Pedro Almodovar
THE PINK FLOYD SONG "KEEP TALKING" suddenly sprang to mind while I was halfway watching Talk To Her. Somewhere in my brain the synapses must have fired up the connections and joined the dots, as this film is all about talking.
At the beginning of the story, Benigno and Marco sit next to each other in the
audience at a dance, a particularly poignant performance featuring two women, eyes
closed, tumbling and moving about amid a cluster of haphazardly placed chairs. They
don’t know each other yet, but a few months down the road, these men will be linked
in a friendship that weaves through some extraordinary circumstances.
One of continental Europe’s best-regarded directors, Pedro Almodovar, once
again offers a drama rich in textures, nuances, emotions and sexuality. Well known for making “women’s pictures” featuring varied and strong female characters, Almodovar has, rather uncharacteristically this time, scales back the usual emphasis and shines the spotlight on male bonding and camaraderie.
The men we see at the beginning now cross paths in a hospital and strike up a
friendship brought together by two women. Benigno is a nurse hired to look after
Alicia, a ballet student struck down in a car accident. Marco has come to visit his
girlfriend Lydia, a female matador gored to near death at a bullfight. Both women lie
in coma and are unlikely to recover.
Benigno talks to his patient all the time, even though the beautiful Alicia can’t
hear or respond. In Lydia’s case, Benigno advices Marco to “talk to her.” “A woman’s
brain is a mystery,” he says. “Especially in this state.” In essence he treats Alicia as if
she were awake, and his devotion echoes the dance we see earlier where a man
anticipates every move of the unseeing women by clearing away the obstacles in their
Almodovar is a director who understands the unique power of his medium.
The seamless tapestry of loops, flashbacks, memories and a movie within a movie all
form one embracing stream of storytelling, unfolding the stages of events from past
and present that eventually surge in an unexpected direction.
One of the two love stories here becomes increasingly unconventional and
borders on shocking. In the end, it is the one platonic relationship between the two
men that bridges the two and seals their conclusions in a semblance of vague
normalcy. A fourth relationship -- perhaps romance (but not between who you might
suspect) -- that’s broadly hinted in the film’s last scene extends a gesture at a hopeful
This closing move is ripe and inspired, with the story having gone through
moments of tenderness, love and numerous surprises, one of which more disturbing
than the Romeo & Juliet ending it ultimately leads to.
As I reflect at this moment on Almodovar’s extraordinary endeavour at
exploring the facets of love, another song comes to mind, this time by the Bee Gees,
and one that is probably closer to the sentiment of “Talk To Her”: You don’t know
what it’s like, baby you don’t know what it’s like to love somebody, to love somebody
the way I love you.