BIFFES | Pain and Glory review: A moving piece of art

BIFFES | Pain and Glory review: Pedro Almodóvar’s work moving piece of art with Antonio Banderas’ eloquent performance

Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar. (AFP Photo)

Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Cast: Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz, Asier Etxeandia
Score: 4

Pedro Almodóvar has made a great many kinds of cinema throughout his career. Comedy, romance, and even thriller. This film, Pain and Glory, however, feels more melancholic and is quieter in its presentation.

The story follows the life of Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas) from his childhood days of living in a cave to Salvador Mallo, the successful writer-director who has lost all desire for filmmaking after his hit ‘Sabor’, which caused a fallout with Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia). However, this man, suffering from nearly every kind of malady and a life frozen by depression, is forced to share a stage again with Crespo, which results in a new outlook on life for Mallo – with a side of heroin.

The heroin acts as a catalyst for Mallo and the viewers, not only relaxing the depressed director, but giving glimpses into Mallo’s past: From studying in seminary school, taken away from normal subjects for his voice impressed all, to moving into a cave-house with his mother, to watching fireworks from a distance, and having his first brush with sexuality.

Pedro Almodóvar acts like a craftsman with this film, carefully weaving together both Mallo’s childhood and his adult life with care and concern. He opens the film with a series of colourful tiles, explains Mallo’s maladies with CAT scans and X-rays and noise visualisations with the narration of Antonio Banderas, and does not shy away – however brief it may be – from showing Mallo’s experiences with sexuality. The latter is particularly apparent in a stage play by Mallo (appropriately titled La Adiccion), in which Almodóvar remains anonymous, that goes through Crespo's life, his love with a man and the cost of heroin addiction with painful, emotional weight.

Antonio Banderas, frequent collaborator of Almodóvar, pours through an eloquent performance bereft of exposition and self-pity. His presentation of what depression, coupled with malady and a generally negative outlook on life, can do to a man is beautiful and terrifying at the same time. He defines himself with his past failures and carries little strength into his present. He holds apprehensions about himself, but as time goes on and relationships are reconciled, he must learn his past cannot define him.

To close, Almodóvar has crafted a masterpiece, worthy not only of recognition but appreciation. It is not only a look into a broken man’s life, but holds a mirror unto those who have been jaded by life. It works with the pain through Mallo’s life and preaches glory through thinking both forward and inward. 

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