In “Volver” director and writer Pedro Almodóvar that makes us wonder what is real and what is fiction.
“Volver” means return. But return to what? Does Someone returns? Do we return in time and remember something? Do We travel to a place and we come back? “Volver” shows the story of a mother and her daughter who is also a mother herself. These women and the other characters are caught in a web of circumstances that could only happen inside the intrigues of a small town’s real life.
Set in a town outside of Madrid, “Volver” shows us a surreal story. There are scenes which seems real for some protagonists but not for others. Raimunda, played by Penelope Cruz, and her sister Sole, are visiting their Aunt Paula, who the town’s people think is a crazy old woman. It all starts when Paula acts like her sister Irene is still alive, when in fact, the entire town “knows” that the sister, tragically passed away in a fire with her husband. In town, people are always speaking about ghosts and how Irene’s spirit appears from time to time. Here Almodóvar emphasizes the coincidence that during that night, Irene’s best friend, also the mother of a great friend of Raimunda, disappears from town. But to the people in the town, and for the daughter, this seems normal since the woman frequently left the town for prolonged times.
Even though everyone thinks Aunt Paula is crazy, she keeps insisting that she is sharing her house with Irene. But the worried nieces also believe she cannot stay by herself and insist on taking her to live with them downtown. This doesn’t happen because Aunt Paula dies before they can do that.
Raimunda lives in a small apartment sharing her life with her lover Paco. This guy is attracted to Raimunda’s daughter, a beautiful adolescent who will become his murderer when he tries to sexually abuse her in the kitchen. Part of the intrigue lies in how Almodóvar shows us the interconnections between Raimunda’s complicated and precarious economic situation, her broken relationship with her sister Sole, and the friendship that her friend wants to keep with her just to know the real story about the disappeared best friend’s mother.
The way in which Almodóvar keeps Raimunda surrounded by the other characters is an example of his strength and determination to tell us a good story in a beautiful film with a strange suspense. There’s a surprise when Raimunda’s mother returns from the dead making us and the people in town think that she is not a spirit anymore. After she appears again she stays in Sole’s home helping in her hairdressing business. However this is kept secret from Raimunda. At this point, Raimunda’s daughter knows her grandmother is alive. But the suspicious Raimunda knows that something is hidden from her around the house. She remembers her mother, but she has bad memories from her family past, that’s the reason she felt distant to her. Is really amazing how in one of the scenes, when Almodóvar fits the music in the exactly place and time in accordance to the emotion of moment, the song by Estrella Morente lip singed by Penelope Cruz in the movie, keep the attention of the audience showing a real connection between Raimunda and her mother because this song was one of the favorites by her.
Almodóvar captivates us and gives us a few scenes that once again determine his enthusiastic and direct way to transmit a message with specific images.
Fascinating shots when the camera focuses downwards from a ceiling or simple shots from the main character’s view demonstrate his ability to say something to us in a specific moment, for example, when Raimunda is washing dishes or when she observes with surprise Paco’s body on the floor of the kitchen.
The editing and the photography both deserve a grade over the average in scenes with close-ups and also in most of the scenes where we can see colorful shoots as a typical characteristic in Spain regions.
It’s an unforgettable adventure masterfully created by Pedro Almodóvar and skillfully interpreted by Penélope Cruz, this director shows once again in “Volver” that with great talent and grand desire half of the task in filmmaking is done.
All the photos used in the slide show and the article are courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar
Produced by Esther García (producer), Augstín Almodóvar (executive)
Written by Pedro Almodóvar
Music by Alberto Iglesias
Cinematography Jose Luis Alcaine
Editing by José Salcedo