Tuesday, 23 August 2011

La mala educación / Bad Education (Pedro Almodóvar, 2004)

Gael García Bernal
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Screenwriter: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Gael García Bernal, Fele Martínez, Lluís Homar, Daniel Jiménez Cacho, Javier Camára, Francisco Boira.
Synopsis: Where to begin with this one? ‘In 1980s Madrid two young men, filmmaker Enrique (Martínez) and aspiring actor Ignacio (García Bernal) open up dark secrets as they revisit their early years together at a Catholic school. As they try to uncover the truth about themselves, each other and the diverse characters in their story, they realize that things and people are not as they first seem’ (from the UK edition of the DVD because it’s a more concise summary than I could come up with).

This is one of those films that is best seen with as little knowledge about the plot as possible. Probably Almodóvar’s most narratively-complex film, we are given several narrative layers, a film within a film, and flashbacks that are not entirely trustworthy. With hindsight (or on second viewing), the complexity of the plot is signaled in the design of the opening credits (designed by Juan Gatti, Almodóvar’s habitual collaborator on credit sequences, posters, and press-packs since Women on the Verge…); layers are torn back to reveal names and other images underneath, and pictures are turned into mosaics (a motif in the film) as if torn up in a fit of pique. As the film unfolds we come to see that that we should not trust what is being presented to us; the past is being reconfigured, or rewritten, to suit the desires of one particular person (although he appears in many different guises).
I loved the film when I saw it for the first time and went back to see it again a couple of days later (it is definitely a film that can withstand multiple viewings), taking a friend with me who had never seen an Almodóvar film before. She was left speechless (and not in a good way), so be warned that it is not to everyone’s taste –but I think that people who like his films will find much to enjoy here (there are quite a lot of visual references to his other films hidden in the mix as well).