Europe take 3 – Almodovar’s melodrama in Madrid

Volver – Pedro Almodovar (2006)

I kind of pictured myself watching all these obscure films from countries I’d never been to and this is not exactly an example of that BUT I couldn’t not do an Almodovar film. I love him. And by the way, to break the chain of Palme D’or winners, this film was only nominated for the award, Ken Loach snatching it in 2006. I was first introduced into Almodovar during my A-Levels (again lol, shout-out to A-Level film for showing me there are other films that aren’t harry potter) when we did like the most in depth study of Talk To Her (2002) in the world. Even though the film is essentially  about a sympathetic rapist which did make my skin crawl,  I couldn’t deny his stylistic genius and I was intrigued to say the least and went on a spree of watching his films which lead me to the beautiful All About My Mother, and probably one of my favourite films ever, The Skin I Live In, aaand I ended up HERE.

Since its pretty hard to discuss without giving anything away, beware the rest of this post will contain spoilers!!

Though  less outrageous than some of my favourite Almodovar films (‘The Skin I Live In’ in its entirety  and that absurd vagina scene in Talk To Her come to mind), Volver is just as melodramatic if not more, featuring adultery, death, fire, cancer, murder, incest, ghosts and an east wind that drives people crazy. Since I took GCSE and A Level Spanish and know how to use google translate, I can confirm the films title ‘Volver’ is the verb meaning ‘To return’, or, as it’s translated in the song sung (mimed unconvincingly) by Raimunda in the restaurant scene, ‘Coming back’.

Undoubtedly my favourite part of this film, (something I’ve gathered is a prominent theme in Almodovar’s films) is the female-centrality of it. There are one or two lines spoken by men throughout the films run-time. It is so refreshing to see women supporting other women, or in this case women (unknowlingly) helping other women move freezers containing their dead husbands without asking questions, is something I think we don’t see often enough in films, in fact it left me wondering why we bother making films about men. Clearly an all-female cast can handle this perfectly well. There is something that tickles me about Raimunda flitting about trying to hide Paco’s body, illegally run a restaurant, grieve for her dead aunt, figure out what her sister is up to and look out for her daughter, and Penelope Cruz carries the character perfectly. For a lot of people the narrative is somewhat ridiculous, but for me it is the prefect amount of ridiculous, funny, shocking, and in the end quite emotional. It is incredibly reminiscent of a telenovela in its melodrama, except it’s.. you know.. good.

Undoubtedly it must have been devastating for Raimunda to be raped by her father and then have her own husband try the exact same thing with her daughter, but although seeming devastated for Paula, she is seemingly unsurprised by Paco’s actions and gets on with hiding his body, apparently void of grief. What might seem like a traumatic situation is somewhat accepted which might tap in to the ‘machismo’ culture in Spain, which was highlighted when Raimunda reveals she has split with Paco, she is met with questions such as “did he hit you?” Men in this world are not just untrustworthy, but irrelevant.

A beautiful, dramatic and incredibly enjoyable piece of filmmaking by the definitive Spanish director. I will definitely be watching more of his work, which reminds me I still need to see Julieta!!!!!

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