For his first English-language film The Human Voice, Almodóvar adapted Jean Cocteau’s renowned monodrama, and collaborated with Tilda Swinton who – with her deadpan pallour, restrained theatricality, and something unhinged on the brink of imploding – was apt for the Spanish auteur’s form and style. Almodóvar, interestingly, had loosely and freely adapted this play earlier in his wild, comical, gleeful Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and hence it’s quite fascinating that he returned to it – even if with hugely contrasting brushstrokes – over three decades later. Running at just shy of 30 minutes, this tantalizingly structured short is steadfastly centered on a wealthy middle-aged woman (Swinton) whose lover has gone for three days now from both her apartment and life. Though she’s packed all his stuff in black valise, she craves to see him one last time before he disappears forever. And in this mental state – an amalgamation of panic, fear, anger, self-pity, pain, depression and desperation – she purchases an axe, gulps down sleeping pills, and then engages in a long, rambling, emotionally volatile conversation ostensibly with her former lover, though it’s never really clear if it’s indeed him or a manifestation of her crumbling sanity. Swinton gave an arresting turn with some of her self-deprecatory comments eerily close to her actual persona, and that, along with the histrionic monologue, added satirical and darkly funny touches to the melodrama. The quintessentially vibrant art décor, lush score and use of Brechtian elements (perhaps as an alternative to pandemic-related restrictions) made this quite delicious at times, even if its brevity and ambiguities made one feel that a longer runtime would’ve done fuller justice to its thematic and narrative arcs.
Director: Pedro Almodovar
Genre: Drama/Psychological Drama/Short Film