TALK TO HER
Alicia (Leonor Watling) lies in a coma; Benigno (Javier Camara) is one of the two nurses hired to wash her, watch her and massage her muscles – but Benigno goes further, because he knows he has to talk to her, even though others think it’s useless. And also because he is in love with her. Fate shoves Marco (Dario Grandinetti), a writer in his early 40s, into the same hospital when his friend, a female bullfighter, Lydia (Rosario Flores), is badly gored and is also in a coma. The two men strike up a strong friendship while they nurse their patients. As the two lonely souls console each other, an extraordinary event changes both their lives.
Review by Andrew L. Urban: Almodovar has woven together intimate but disparate pieces of the human experience, to create a quilt of emotional and psychological motifs that are easy to recognise but challenge our knee-jerk reactions. On one level, it’s a bizarre and unique love story; on another, it’s a story about male friendship; on yet another, it’s a mosaic of contemporary life and the hazards of real love. But above all, it challenges us to dig deep and suspend judgement. And there is a line of dialogue that haunts the film, delivered by the minor support character played by Geraldine Chaplin as a ballet mistress. “Nothing is simple,” she says. Echoes of Oscar Wilde’s quip that “the truth is rarely plain and never simple.” Almodovar, known as the enfant terrible of contempo Spanish cinema and a bravura artist, shows the extent of his humanity here, the counter-balance to his mischievous (even wicked) excesses. Those excesses are replayed here as profound insight and compassion. But he also takes enormous artistic risks, at one point inserting a 7 minute extract from a 1924 silent movie- which he made himself. It is a key sequence for reasons you have to discover for yourself. The performances match the script, achingly, acutely truthful and painful yet delivered with the lightest naturalism. If I seem to have been evasive in revealing details, it’s because I want you to go and feel this movie for yourselves at first hand, unburdened with too many preconceptions or expectations. It is quite something.
This is a remarkable film, based on a screenplay that Pedro Almodovar has constructed out of stray pieces of reality he has picked up in news reports. The most extraordinary elements of the film recreate events that actually happened. If that sounds like a messy montage, I am to blame for representing it badly. And don’t look to the synopsis for anything more than cursory information. The film is not about the effects of a coma. It is about the deepest longings and urges that drive human behaviour – but that sounds far too pretentious. It’s nothing like that.
Review by Louise Keller:
If All About My Mother was an essay about women, Talk to Her is a story about men. A bewitching and offbeat tale about two men brought together by loneliness, Talk to Her is a stimulating exploration of communication through the art of silence. We first meet Marco and Benigno, strangers seated side by side in the audience of an experimental dance theatre production, in which two women express emotions through dance. It’s the tears in Marco’s eyes that take our attention, and that’s what Benigno remembers when they meet later in the hospital ward. While the narrative is straightforward, it’s the underlying complexities that are not. We meet two women, who both use their bodies in their chosen professions. Lydia is a fiery and passionate bullfighter, with no fear in the arena, but is terrified of a small house snake that finds its way in her kitchen. When she meets Marco, he fills a void in her life, as she entangles herself from a disastrous relationship. Alicia is young, innocent and a budding ballerina. Benigno is infatuated and is desperate to meet her. But life plays its hand in strange ways, and his wish to care for her is granted, but only as a carer as she lies helpless in a hospital bed. He is inextricably bound to her, massaging her limbs, washing her hair and sharing his every thought with her, seemingly confident that she can hear him. ‘Talk to her’ Benigno tells Marco, but Marco is not so sure that Lydia can her him, as she lies in the adjacent hospital room. Thus an unusual and complex bond is forged between Marco and Benigno. While it is not a sexual relationship, it is nonetheless one that is very intimate. After all, it is the two men and not the women, who are the needy ones. Splendid performances by the four central characters, with the incomparable genius touch of Almodovar clearly on display, making the ordinary seem extraordinary. Here is a filmmaker who is incapable of making a boring film. In the film’s most memorable scene, we relive a black and white silent film Benigno shares with Alicia, in which a rapidly shrinking man tumbles down the mountainous breasts of a naked woman, and finally ventures adventurously through the gateway of a giant vagina surrounded by forests of coarse hair. It’s a stunning pivotal sequence that shocks, amuses and entertains in a bewildering way. Almodovar grapples with the circumstances and issues with as much zest and flair as the vibrant soundtrack whose soulful violins and rhythmic Spanish guitars pummel our emotions. While the themes may sound rather depressing, in fact they are surprisingly uplifting, with the beauty of the relationship between the two men the focus. You can read many layers of complexity into the story and the characters, but as the story of their friendship plays out to a wonderfully resolute conclusion, our faith in the circle of life is restored.
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TALK TO HER (MA)
(Hable Con Ella)
CAST: Javier Camara, Dario Grandinetti, Leonor Watling, Rosario Flores, Geraldine Chaplin
PRODUCER: Augustin Almodovar
DIRECTOR: Pedro Almodóvar
SCRIPT: Pedro Almodóvar
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Javier Aguirresarobe
EDITOR: Pepe Salcedo
MUSIC: Alberto Iglesias
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Antxon Gomez
RUNNING TIME: 112 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Twentieth Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 13, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment
VIDEO RELEASE: September 24, 2003