Broken Embraces: Pedro Almodóvar
Perhaps the most famous Spanish director of his time, Pedro Almodóvar’s passion for cinematic representation began in the early 1980s. Experimenting with themes of desire and identity, Almodóvar’s work is largely expressive in both content and style. Penélope Cruz’s involvement in his 1997 film Live Flesh marked a significant turning point for Almodóvar, who went onto re-cast her in three more of his films. We chatted to the star about his latest project, Broken Embraces and working with Cruz...
LOVEFiLM: Broken Embraces centres around the making of a movie and as such feels like one of your most personal films to date?
Pedro Almodóvar: Essentially, what I wanted to talk about in this film was the love story and the relationships between these characters. And it just so happens that these four characters are involved in making a film. In a very natural way the film provided a backdrop for the story and when I put my camera in front of the actors, it was as if I was paying tribute to film making and all the elements which have been an essential part of my life for many, many years. There was also a thought process about the role of images in contemporary life. Another consideration was how the moving images which define cinema are no longer restricted to the realms of theatre. For example, we can see them on our phones.
LF: How do you feel about the critics who suggest you are repeating yourself?
PA: I don’t think I am repeating myself at all. This was the most difficult movie I have ever done. Of course my movies are reflected in this one. I talk about lots of films but the ones I like the most are ultimately my own.
LF: What about the idea that you are not as shocking as you used to be? Have you mellowed out as you’ve got older?
PA: I never set out to be scandalous or to be shocking, I just wanted to tell my stories from my point of view. What I am really concerned about is making a good movie not an outrageous movie. We’re living in times of huge scandal, in all walks of life; from politics to the financial world, but I don’t think movies are generating scandal in that way today.
LF: It has been suggested that your films reflect the democratisation of the Franco period?
PA: I started making movies at the time when Spain reached its democracy and it was a huge explosion which spilled over into all forms of artistic and cinematic expression. Of course it spilled over into my films as well because there was this exhilarating freedom of expression. Spain is no longer a new democracy, it is a young democracy but it is well established.
LF: You’ve become incredibly successful on an international level, is there a weight of expectation that perhaps wasn’t there when you first started making films?
PA: That pressure is certainly there. There are periods when I don’t feel it. Now that the film is about to open the pressure is a huge weight, but when I’m writing or when I’m shooting fortunately I don’t think about how people will receive the film. Once you finish a film and it is on the market, it is only natural to be concerned about what people are thinking or what they are going to say. It doesn’t change the way I work.I want to make a film that my heart wants me to make.
LF: Would you say your sexuality affects your films?
PA: Obviously the director’s personality informs the film he or she makes, but I don’t think the fact I am homosexual influences all of my films.
One of my films contained all gay characters, Law Of Desire, but to me that is not a gay movie. You could tell exactly the same story with heterosexual actors and it would be the same movie because it’s a story about devastating passion which would apply to straight or gay people.
I don’t think that there is a necessary connection between being gay and having a gay sensitivity. I wish I could give you an example of a gay director who doesn’t have that sensitivity; perhaps I can use myself as an example in that sense.
LF: Was there any noticeable change in Penélope Cruz’s acting, after having worked on American productions?
PA: Obviously the conditions in the U.S. and Spain are very different, but I think when she comes back to Europe and certainly when she shoots with me, she is very much the same actress she was when we shot our first movie 12-years ago. Her life has certainly changed enormously; she’s extremely successful. But the way she lives and the way she moves around the world hasn’t caused her acting to change. Certainly with me she works the way she always did. And fortunately she continues to put blind faith in me.
LF: Would you work with Penelope again?
PA: Oh yes. I am very happy with her and all her performances. In this film she demonstrated just how versatile she is. This character really didn’t fit her well, she was supposed to be older and a little darker. Penelope is full of light and I was trying to show a darker side to her.
LF: What does she bring to your films and what do you bring to her?
PA: She brings to me a great sense of security because she has blind faith in me. She believes in me much more than I do myself. And that gives you a lot of strength; knowing that you have an actress who will do anything.Helen Cowley
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