Volver (2006)

“Don’t say that, Raimunda, or I’ll start crying. And ghosts don’t cry.”

‘Volver’, directed by Pedro Almodóvar in 2006, is a Spanish drama film set in Madrid and in the countryside around the city. Penélope Cruz plays Raimunda who, with her daughter Paula and sister Soledad, become embroiled in a story of apparent ghosts, faked deaths and murder. It’s a typically knotty but rich film from Almodóvar and has the same, occasionally alienating, vein of black comedy. The real pleasure of this film, as with so many of the Spanish director’s movies, is the cast of eccentric female characters. Here the only vaguely notable male character is the father of Paula who is rapidly dispatched off-screen and then spends the rest of the film in a freezer. The plot is convoluted, and a main narrative thread in which the deceased mother of the two sisters apparently haunts them then turns out to have simply pretended to die, is, to say the least unbelievable. But this sense of abstracted rationality is also a key part of this films character – the reactions of the characters to the unlikely events around them, their pragmatic acceptance of the fantastical, is almost a way Almodóvar mythologises his story. There is attention paid to the idea that the village the sisters come from is superstitious and, therefore, prone to accept the idea of ghosts, but this acceptance bleeds into the urban mind-set as well. To round off this fantastical mediation on rural Spain, Almodóvar draws on the style of Federico Fellini, who with movies like ‘Amarcord’ performed a similar trick. Almodóvar goes further, at times recreating the distinctive look and texture of Fellini. Through this, this Spanish director achieves a film that manages to tap into something beyond the superficial.

Would I recommend it? I’m not a massive fan of Almodóvar, but this film looks beautiful and the story is rich (or mad) enough to maintain interest. I’ve watch it in a double bill with ‘Amarcord’.

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