Pedro Almodovar and Tilda Swinton heated things up at the Venice Film Festival this afternoon, speaking to the press after the screening of the Spanish maestro’s first English-langauge project, The Human Voice. “Freely” based on the 1930 Jean Cocteau play, the 30-minute movie was shot after the coronavirus lockdown was lifted. Almodovar will quickly return to work in October, because, “Despite uncertainty, we have to go on, we have to make films.”
The director joined others who over the course of two days on the Lido have made impassioned pleas for the big screen experience. That includes Swinton during her Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement speech last night. Today, she separately weighed in on another popular topic during a masterclass, praising Berlin’s decision to switch to gender-neutral awards. She predicted, it’s “inevitable that everybody will follow.”
During the Human Voice press conference, Swinton explained she had been “entirely besotted” by Almodovar’s movies since seeing Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown (which takes its starting point from The Human Voice). However, it was a Benedictine Monk pal of hers who predicted the two would one day pair up, saying, “I have a special prayer for you: To work with Pedro Almodovar.”
In the film, Swinton plays a woman in despair, who, along with her dog, has been abandoned by her lover and waits on a phone call that ultimately becomes a nearly 30-minute monologue. There is a baroque and bold quality to The Human Voice which also has theatrical elements.
Almodovar was asked if his filmography is changing given the theatricality of this and other recent work. “Ever since Julieta, I have the impression of palpably entering a new season. I am working towards a leaner narrative with fewer elements, but I analyze them very deeply. The experience of sobriety and austerity accompanied me also in Pain And Glory. It’s something new that I’m experiencing in this season of my life and I am trying to investigate it.”
He is not, however, losing his passion for cinema and the theatrical experience. The lockdown, he said, “forced us all to stay at home and I think that has proved a lot of things including to what extent we all depend on fiction… The platforms have had an essential role in this period of time, but it’s nevertheless also a negative result and reason for concern.”
The antidote to a “forced reclusion” or “imprisonment” in the home, Almodovar said, “is the cinema.” The Oscar winner declared, “Going to the cinema is an adventure… to be part of a place which is dark and shared with people that we don’t know. The Greeks talk of catharsis, so you find yourself crying or rejoicing with other people and it’s an essential event in our lives as humans.”
Based on his comments today, don’t expect to see Almodovar team with a streamer for a feature any time soon. “Films are made to be seen by any means, but as a director and spectator the fact that a film of mine is show in a theater, that I can hear audience breathe, gives me the pulse of to what extent my film excites people. If I put my film on a platform like Netflix, I lose that contact with the spectator.”
Wrapping things up, Almodovar said his greatest illusion “is to continue to be alive. And one of my greatest desires is to be here in Venice and to share with you the fact I am alive, to continue living and working and also working with Tilda… When you find that chemistry with an actor, it is really unique and that allows you to go much further.”
They don’t have a project just yet, but Almodovar begins pre-production of his next feature, Madres Paralelas in October and has written two other short films, one a Western, and both very theatrical. The other is called A Strange Form Of Life and takes place at a social event in a Spain of the future where cinemas have disappeared.