The Human Voice

Colourful short film by Pedro Almodóvar (Dolor Y Gloria, Todo Sobre Mi Madre) based on Jean Cocteau’s play of the same name. Starring Tilda Swindon.

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Tilda Swinton swallows up the screen as a woman traumatized by the end of a relationship in Pedro Almodóvar’s first English-language film. In thirty mesmerizing minutes, Swinton’s nameless character runs through a frightening range of emotions, from despair to fury to exhilaration, all while isolated in a luxurious apartment that’s also a stage set; her only companions are her ex-partner’s dog, Dash, and the betrayer’s unheard presence on the other end of her phone. Almodóvar used many of his frequent collaborators, including cinematographer José Luis Alcaine and composer Alberto Iglesias, for this impeccably designed adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s 1930 play. (source: New York Film Festival)

Pedro Almodóvar, Spain, 2020, 30 min. English spoken, Dutch subtitles. With Tilda Swinton, Agustin Almodóvar, Miguel Almodóvar, Pablo Almodóvar.

Almodóvar’s passion with Jean Cocteau is evident. The plot of his 1988 Oscar nominated masterpiece WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN was greatly inspired by Cocteau’s play. Back then he actually already wanted to make a short film based on the play, but for financial reasons he had to make a feature-length film. Therefore he wrote a story based on the 48 hours prior to the notorious phone call in Cocteau's play, complete with, in true Almodóvar sense, loads of colourful and desperate characters roaming the vibrant streets of Madrid.

As always in Almodóvar films, colour plays a great role in THE HUMAN VOICE. About this aspect of his work, he stated: “Colour idealises an object and gives it an artificial value I like. I believe this artifice in the objects, the walls, the décor, the clothes…that reveals and singles out the characters in my films. It also completely isolates what interests me most in my films: the story itself and the characters’ emotions.” Especially the colour red is crucial to his work, as it expresses love and passion, as well as death and religion – themes that are key to nearly all of his films.

This video essay is a perfect tribute to the many shades of red Almodóvar uses in his films.

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