Pedro Almodóvar, the “Cinema Inside Him”

Carolina Duarte de Jesus, Translated by Aino Lehtonen
27 Octobre 2014

The Festival Lumière 2014 came to an end on Sunday. Pedro Almodóvar was the guest of honour of the year, and most of his films were broadcast during the festival. What is more, the film director himself got to choose films on the program : the “cinema inside him”.

Credit DR
Credit DR
Pedro Almodóvar explained to us that there are often references to the cinema in his films. In fact, having been a big cinema buff already in his youth, he says he was raised with movies. Thus, the impact is significant, ranging from Luis Buñuel to Alfred Hitchcock. It is thanks to the getaways to the movie theatre in his youth that he had the will and the capacity to become the extremely influential film director he is today. By this token, it seems logical that Almodóvar got to choose movies for the Festival that he calls “El cine dentro de mí” – “The cinema inside me”. 

A Quick Look at the Movies that Caught his Attention

In most of his films Pedro Almodóvar has slipped scenes or posters of his favourite directors. First of all, one has to note that the theme of cinema is present in all of his films, whether during a conversation between characters that show an interest in film art, or simply in the script to cover for other scenes, like what happens in Live Flesh (‘Carne trémula’): Elena is watching TV and doesn’t hear the gunshot because of a simultaneous gunshot in the movie she watches – The Criminal Life of Archibald de la Cruz (‘Ensayo de un crimen’). Similarly, other movies can sometimes be seen in Almodóvar’s work through scenes that he incorporates very naturally in his films. This is what happens in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (‘Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios’), in which Pepa and Iván work in movie dubbing, and have Johnny Guitar in the making.

When it comes to some movies, however, one must not try to find deeper meanings than the simple references in the scenes. Almodóvar is very clear on the fact that it is only for the love for these films that he wanted to include them in his own work in one way or another. Therefore there are no deep explanations to these scenes, and other similarities are often strictly coincidental. Nevertheless, some references in some films have a direct influence in the characters, such as in Broken Embraces (‘Los Abrazos rotos’), when Lena sees the scene with the couple in dried lava of Journey to Italy (‘Viaggio in Italia’), and suddenly becomes aware of the state of her own relationship. There are other films that have an influence on the story, and similarities are visible. 

Visible Similarities

Like many film directors, Pedro Almodóvar has been strongly influenced by the storyline of some of these films, and he uses this influence in his movies. We have two obvious examples, in different ways. Let us start with Matador. Maria and Diego, two killers, meet and soon have become irresistible to one another – mostly because of their mutual passion for blood and death. They end up killing each other in the midst of sexual intercourse. But this death had been foreshadowed in Duel in the Sun (‘Duelo al sol’), in which a passionate couple faces a similar fate. Maria and Diego had seen this scene, and without knowing looked into the future. The same idea is present in Bad Education (‘Mala educación’) : once more the main characters go to the movies and watch two films – Theresa Ranquin (‘Thérèse Raquin’) and Double Indemnity (‘Perdición’) – that gave a hint about their fate. Even though the film of Marcel Carné is the more influential of the two, there is no scene that would explicitly describe the characters’ lives in the future, because similarities can be found throughout the two films. In one scene, one of the main characters – Mr. Berenguer – even says “it’s as If all the movies were about us”. The fate of the characters is foretold, but they are aware of the similarities – which makes the movie different from the other. 

However, in some cases there are is no influence to be found. For example in Live flesh the similarities in the story appear by pure coincidence. But what is even more surprising is that Eyes Without a ‘Face (‘Ojos sin rostro’) did not play any part in inspiring Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In (‘La piel que habito’). In fact, the director explained to us that his inspiration came from Thierry Jonquet’s novel Mygale, and that he only noticed the similarities between the films afterwards. 

Thanks to the Festival Lumière we have got the exceptional chance to observe various aspects of Pedro Almodóvar, his influence and his most heart-stopping work. It was a fantastic experience for amateurs of cinema willing to discover new movies, actors, directors and everything else that cinema can offer.