2002 / Best Director

Film #537: Talk to Her (2002)

We journey from one foreign film primarily set in a hospital to another one in the form of Pedro Almodovar’s Talk to Her. However, rather than just receiving a nomination for his directing, Almodovar was able to scoop an Oscar for his brilliant original screenplay which focused on two women in comas and the men who loved them.

In a similar to many of Almodovar’s films, Talk to Her plays around with the narrative timeline skipping forwards and backwards to provide revelations about the characters. Primarily Talk to Her is about two couples whose stories are told sporadically throughout the course of the film. Firstly there’s male nurse Benigno and his patient Alicia the latter of whom has been in a coma for the past four years. It’s clear from the outset that Benigno has more than a professional relationship with Alicia and its later revealed that he actually knew her before the car accident that landed her in the hospital. The other relationship is that of travel guide writer Marco and bullfighter Lydia who begin a romance after he helps kill a snake at her house. One of Talk to Her’s best traits in my opinion is the way that Marco and Lydia’s relationship plays out so you only see snippets that are relevant to the plot. Inevitably Lydia gets into an accident whilst in the bullring which sees her end up in the same hospital as Alicia. Marco and Benigno soon strike up what is actually the most conventional relationship in the film and it’s clear that the former is the only one who truly cares about the latter. Unfortunately events soon take a turn for the dark and by the end of the film only two of the four main characters are alive while it seems the other two may be embarking on a new relationship of sorts.

I first watched Talk to Her just after it came out but it’s not stayed with me in the same way some of Almodovar’s other films have specifically All About My Mother and The Skin I Live In. But upon watching it this time I found a film that had so many layers to it and was unlike anything else that The Academy honoured in the Best Picture line-up. While that year’s Best Picture list included colourful big budget outings like Gangs of New York and Chicago, Talk to Her provided something more intimate and personal. That’s not to say that it wasn’t a colourful film as the pastel shades of Talk to Her were one of the most striking elements as were the utilisation of different media throughout the film. For example ballet plays a big part in the story of Talk to Her with Alomodovar beginning and ending the story with scenes in which Marco is watching a performance. There’s also a very daring moment in which Almodovar inserts scenes from a fictional silent movie that Benigno has been to see and is telling Lydia about. It’s these moments and so many more that made Talk to Her such a joy to watch the second time around and Almodovar’s script especially deserves praise. One thing I did like about the script was the ambiguity of certain plo points especially surrounding the reason Benigno winds up in prison. Almodovar is able to make the character of Benigno seem so sympathetic that you wonder if he did commit the crime that he’s charged with in the first place. One other element of the film that I found so striking was the Alberto Iglesias’ fantastic score which perfectly underpinned some of the more dramatic moments and made you feel certain ways about different characters at specific times.

There’s no denying that Almodovar deserved his Oscar for Talk to Her’s fantastically deep screenplay and his Best Director nod was also a must if only for helming a film that included an arty bullfighting sequence and a fantastic black-and-white silent movie sequence. The big question though is whether it deserved a place in the 2002 Best Picture line-up where it would’ve in theory replaced the second instalment of The Lord of The Rings trilogy; The Two Towers. In my opinion The Two Towers’ disappearance from the line-up would be no big loss and in my opinion it was probably the weakest of the three films hence Peter Jackson not getting a nod for his direction. But at the same time Talk to Her almost feels too small and intimate to be a Best Picture candidate and maybe we should just be thankful that a foreign language film went home with a Screenplay Award which is often exclusively given to films that are written in English.

Next time we stay in the foreign film area but travel over to Brazil for one of my favourite movies of all time.

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