Bad Education/La Mala Educación (Pedro Almodóvar, 2004)

“I think I’ve just lost my faith at this moment, so I no longer believe in God or hell. As I don’t believe in hell, I’m not afraid. And without fear I’m capable of anything.”

Introduction

I thought I would start with what is fastly becoming my favourite Almodóvar film. Initially, when I began watching the film I thought it was a little bit … ahem … gay. Not that it makes it bad but as I have no personal experience of homosexuality, I was worried it was a film that was effectively targetted towards the gay-audience and that personally I wouldn’t really ‘get’ it. Without putting too fine a point on it, it is a very ‘gay’ film but ever since I watched the film I have thought more about Bad Education and pondered on the characters, the complexities and relationships intertwined and, eventually, realised how incredible it truly is.

Multi-Layered

The film constantly flicks between one story, and another – beginning with a director meeting a old school lover, Ignacio (Gael García Bernal) who has a script for him to read. He reads this story and we see the story being played out – a story semi-representative of their childhood and their initial love during a Catholic boarding school. We then come back to the director who meets again with Ignacio, who the director eventually finds out is not Ignacio at all – and so we then see how the director then begins a romance with Juan, who still believes that the director thinks he is Igancio. They make the film, which is what we saw when we were shown the story initially – same actors and what not – only to then be confronted by someone, who reveals the actual end of Ignacio. A dark story – Pedro Almodóvar is obsessed with film and you always see so many different aspects within his films to show this and, I think, to some extent this is Pedro Almodóvar’s attempt at a Hitchcock – akin to Stage Fright, whereby Hitchcock showed us a flase flashback, only to reveal the truth later on. In a similar way, Bad Education gives us a false-flashback – changing it at the end. The difference being, to some extent, that we are clued into the fictitiousness of Ignacio’s/Juan’s script – making the film that much more introverted and confusing.

The title credits even evokes Bernard Herrmans scores in the strings and beautfiul orchestral sound – setting the film up in the same vein as Hitchcock’s thrillers.

Darkly, Even Black

When the film leads into its final act – showing the murderous ways of Juan, it almost becomes a film noir as themurder plot finale shows Juan/Fr Manola assist in the murder of Ignacio (who has become a heroin-addict/transexual). This adds a further dynamic as we know that Father Manola abused Ignacio as a child – Manola continues his false-identity as he left priesthood and married – but is clearly a homosexual, especially in his fascination and love for Juan, whereby he cheats on his wife with Juan. The film flips and changes direction again, as we see that Ignacio is not the innocent child he was as a pupil in school – Ignacio uses and, to some extent abuses Fr Manola and, more importantly, Ignacio abuses his family – stealing from them to fund his heroin habit. Is Igancio a product of Manola’s abuse of him? Should we understand Juan/Manola killing Igancio? The films multiple perspectives – and expectations of you as an audience member – continues to fester in your head as, at different points in the story, the “bad guy” and “good guy” changes. If anything – maybe it is a simple case of “Nobody is what they seem”…

Role-Playing

To conclude – everyone seems to be playing a role: Father Manola and his ‘hidden side’ abusing children, Juan pretending to be his brother, Ignacio himself, – as a transexual – in an excpetionally false feminine look. These multiple characters make the film irresitably intricate – multiple levels and understandings behind each characters – nobodys motives are clear. Even the director abuses Juan – as he takes advantage of Juan’s lies and begins his own romance with him. The various levels to the story show how never is a story simple to tell. The director, searching for an idea, cuts out newspaper articles …. but alas, these are only one side of the story, it is always more interesting to find out every angle, every motive – and every dark secret that lurks behind so many stories of love.
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