Bad Education (2004)

Directed by Pedro Almodóvar

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There’s a real Hitchcockian vibe to Bad Education.  It’s a wonderfully crazy movie about revenge, with interweaving narratives, timelines and realities.  The revenge isn’t even the central focus of the movie, as the character out for revenge isn’t exactly front and center here.  That would be Ignacio, a man who is impersonated twice over.

The story is about two old friends working together, one a director and another an actor and writer.  The actor, Ignacio, brings the director, Enrique, a story that he wants to turn into a film.  It’s about their childhood and how it intersected with a monstrous priest.

The idea of revenge is established early on, but for Enrique all that matters is that this makes for a good story.  The outcome of the revenge is only important insofar as it creates a compelling ending to the story.

Things even become further blurred with Enrique’s suspicions of his old friend prove well-founded.  The story about which they are making a movie turns out to not yet be finished, and it all comes swirling together in some strange, dreamlike manner.

It’s easy to lose track of what happens and when, where it happened and to whom.  Identity is very much called into question as we see a whole lot of performing going on.  There’s the face you put on when you’re auditioning for a role or running a scam on an unsuspecting victim.  There are drag queens and actors, some paid and others not.

It creates a complex web of misdirection, mistaken identity and fraud, for some reasons that hover near the surface and others that are buried much deeper.  By the end all will be revealed, but that outcome matters not so much as the mystery and intrigue that carries us there.

The whole thing, no matter how melodramatic it is at the end of the day, conjures up a whole lot of feeling, like Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.  The different identities and faces worn have a lot to do with passion, infatuation and unreciprocated love.  The movie suggests that everything circumventing our soul, not just clothing but things we consider more permanent, are in fact not permanent.  They are ways of fastening ourselves together, beyond a flowy dress or a stiff suit, things that we may not realize can be so taken apart and so easily.

It’s in some ways haunting, but it’s quite beautiful all the same.  It’s a mess in the ways life is a mess, in the ways our internal lives and desires and fears are a mess.  We watch as people dissolve through time and through perceptible choices, pulling themselves and each other apart or letting it happen when they turn their backs.  Then they all swirl around in some kind of pool from which they re-emerge.

It’s like that saying, that we are the universe reflecting upon itself.  We, and the characters, are matter being pulled apart and sealed back together in new ways, yanked this way and that by rather subconscious desire and fear, the things that we have a hard time putting into words.

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