Pedro Almodovar’s “Hable Con Ella” is a great film but one that’s hard to diagnose. Foremost it’s a love story, one that explores unreciprocated love in the sense that two women are in a coma and the film is about the men who love them. But it also explores that idea more figuratively because the characters are afraid to speak to each other when it comes to sharing expressions, thoughts or memories of deep love and emotion. Sometimes Almodovar’s exploration is a bit unsettling, but that’s part of what makes it a standout film and worthy of its Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
“Hable” follows a few different characters. Marco (Dario Grandinetti) is a journalist who tries to land an interview with a famous woman bullfighter named Lydia (Rosario Flores) who captivates him and the two become somewhat involved before a bullfighting accident leaves Lydia in a coma. Benigno (Javier Camera) is a male nurse who takes care of Alicia (Leonor Watling) a young dancer in a coma, to whom he is deeply attached and in a slightly concerning way. We see the history of both those relationships, but it is that which develops between Marco and Benigno that is most interesting as they spend many days in the clinic together.
The story takes us to many different points in time. We learn that Marco was having trouble getting over a past love when he met Lydia and they’d only discussed in hours before her accident. We also learn that Benigno was stalking Alicia before her accident and his nursing skills happened to put him in a fortunate position to be with her almost all the time. Sharing these stories and their passion for women who might never love them, the two form a bond.
Almodovar’s film is also big on art. Not only is Alicia a dancer, but the film opens and ends with the main characters attending a dance performance, there are bullfighting scenes (considered essentially to be an art form in Spain) and there is a peculiar silent film shown within the film. Different main characters cry when observing these events, mainly because they evoke in them an emotion they’ve yet to express, that they’ve bottled up inside.
Though strange, the art in this film is pivotal. Almodovar seems to comment on how artistic moments, sometimes for the silliest of reasons, can provoke strong emotional responses. They communicate important ideas and emotions in a less explicit manner, acting almost as a substitute for direct communication between an artist and his or her audience.
That’s where the beauty of “Hable Con Ella” lies, although your attention will be focused on the peculiarity of these relationships and the strange ways in which Almodovar presents love and relationships to us — plus of course how the events unfold. But it’s really about communication as the title alludes to, how we use art among other things to wrap up a message that perhaps is best delivered directly, even if the other person might not understand, even if they cannot hear us at all.
Hable Con Ella (Talk to Her) (2002)
Written and Directed by: Pedro Almodovar
Starring: Javier Camara, Dario Grandinetti, Leonor Watling, Rosario Flores