Los Abrazos Rotos (Broken Embraces)


(warning: movie plot spoiler ahead)

Pedro Almodovar‘s films resemble ancient greek tragedies in their narrative. They successfully follow successfully the triptych of the ancient greek tragedies that stirs pleasurable emotions to the audience for the suffering. Hubris is triggered by mistakes or unfortunate choices of the passionate characters in the film; retribution results in their punishment and, finally, nemesis follows them in the katharsis of their soul. In the end, even if we do not agree with the life choices of Almodovar’s heroes and heroines, we cannot help but feel sympathy for them.

This is exactly what we witness in his latest film, Broken Embraces. We follow the story of a blind screenwriter called Harry Caine. Harry is assisted by his friend and film producer Judith and her son, Diego in his daily life. When Judith is away, Diego is briefly hospitalized due to a drug incidence Harry gets Diego from the hospital and looks after him at home. There, a series of discussions lead to Harry uncovering the sequence of tragic and unfortunate events responsible for his blindness.

In the past, Harry’s real name was Mateo Blanco and he was a well-known screenwriter and film-director. Harry met Lena (Penelope Cruz) in an audition and casted her for the leading role of his next movie, Chicas y maletas, which is based Almodovar’s script for “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown“. Lena, originally coming from a poor family, got involved with the millionaire Ernesto Martel and became his mistress to repay him for hospitalizing her sick father. Ernesto Martel, passionately in love with Lena, will do whatever it takes to keep her happy, even if this means financing Harry’s latest film. Due to the tiring schedule of rehearsals and shooting, Lena distances herself from Martel and falls in love with Harry. Martel becomes jealous of Lena and sends his son, Ernesto Martel Junior, to spy on her by directing a “behind the scenes” video during the production of the film. It is this way that Martel learns about Lena’s love for Harry and cannot hold his wrath. Before the premier of the film, Lena and Harry disappear from Madrid and Martel takes his revenge by re-editing and destroying the film. In Lanzarote, where Harry and Lena take refuge, a car accident kills Lena and leaves Harry blind. It is after the accident that Harry assumes his pseudonym as his real name and wants to forget the past forever.


Back in the present, after Judith returns to Madrid, she confesses to Harry being responsible for revealing Harry’s and Lena’s wherabouts to Martel at that time and feels responsible for Harry’s unfortunate fate. Harry learns that Judith still holds the lost reels of Chicas y maletas and decides to re-edit the film to release it after so many years.

In this film, we witness once again Almodovar’s powerful narrative and film-making. As with “Todo sobre mi madre” and “Volver” Almodovar does not portray his heroines as superwomen. It is their frailties, their passions and their mistakes that make them vulnerable and, therefore, human. And it is this fact that elevates Almodovar’s films into a special art form.


P.S.: All images © respective owners


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