As film makers, we constantly struggle with our duties. Are we story tellers? Are we visionaries? Are we both? Is it even possible to be both? But then again, I’m in the same boat as the rest of those unemployed film grads, so I really can’t say. IN a perfect world, I’d like to be lieve that it’s a little bit of both. In my world, as a writer, I’d like to think that what I write matters so I’d have to go with the writing end of it. In the real world? Special effects sell. No one cared that Avatar had a trite story and terrible dialogue. Yes, in the real world, it’s been proven that what is seen on the screen is prized above all else, at least for the majority.
Still, the questions remains, can there be harmony between the two? It’s definitely a skill that not all film makers have, but I think that it’s possible. One of the films that made me believe this was possible was Almodovar’s Broken Embraces. It was your typical Almodovar which, if you aren’t familiar with his work, features strong women as a main interest, the duality of human nature, and a hint of melodrama for the whole thing. It’s not his best work, but it certainly had enough that it kept me interested.
The main story was an ill-fated romance between a screenwriter and his actress. Like I said, nothing too original, but the characters were enough for me. Almodovar has a fantastic quality with his actors and actresses that he’s able to bring something out in them that’s completely indescribable. Cruz is sensational in this role, but even better in Volver, the Almodovar movie that earned her an Oscar nomination before her eventual win. But I digress. At the heart of the movie is something so simple and yet so tragic and moving, that you almost forget that you’ve seen this movie before except with a different director and a different cast. The story manages to stay with you more than all the other tellings of that story.
However, to chock it up to just the actors and direction would be careless. Almodovar has a very distinct visual style for most of his movies and this one was no different. First and foremost, Cruz is absolutely stunning. It’s easy to understand why she’s the screen siren of the piece and she plays it beautifully. One of the most well known scenes of the film is when her character is trying on different wigs. While it obviously has context within the film, outside of it, I’d honestly just be content to watch it on its own. Everything about it is so breathtakingly beautiful, and Almodovar assures his audience that he knows that and takes full advantage of it. TRuth be told, a lot of the movie hinges on what Almodovar tells you is beautiful. It’s his authoritative command of beauty that makes it work for the film.
So Broken Embraces is a difficult film to understand entirely on its own. The story itself is simple enough, but too truly appreciate it, at least a basic familiarity with Almodovar’s command of the story and of what we see on screen is pretty necessary. It’s not his best work, but it’s enjoyable. More so, it’s one of those beautiful examples that proves movies aren’t just to be looked at. They are something to draw us in, tie us down emotionally with characters and story, and if they have something beautiful for us to feast our eyes on? Well, so be it.