Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

The Possibility of Becoming in Pedro Almodóvar’s Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (1988) and Los abrazos rotos (2009)

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2019), 96, (2), 181–199.

Abstract

The persistent, multiform, and seemingly inconsequential visual treatment of fruit by Pedro Almodóvar in the two closely tied films, Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (1988) and Los abrazos rotos (2009), I argue here, draws on the phenomenological ontology of Jean-Paul Sartre. Almodóvar participated in a 1977 Spanish production of Sartre’s Dirty Hands (1948), where he would meet Carmen Maura and become familiar with the philosophy of the French existentialist. This early exposure to Sartre, whose phenomenology denies the existence of a fixed ego and an essential self, would exert profound influences on postmodern conceptions of subjectivity and was formative, I sustain, in the director’s filmic preoccupation with body politics. Moreover, I argue that the female protagonists of both films overcome Sartrean homogeneity and lack of differentiation; it is precisely this struggle that constitutes the ground for their freedom from a ‘fixed’ existence by the men who object-ify them.

El tratamiento visual persistente, multiforme y aparentemente trivial de la fruta por parte de Pedro Almodóvar en Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (1988) y en Los abrazos rotos (2009), se basa, según planteo, en la ontología fenomenológica de Jean-Paul Sartre. En 1977 Almodóvar actuó en la producción española de la obra de Sartre, Las manos sucias (1948), en la que conocería a Carmen Maura y la filosofía del existencialista francés. El contacto temprano con las ideas de Sartre, cuya fenomenología niega la existencia de un ego fijo y un ser esencial, ejercería una influencia profunda en las conceptualizaciones posmodernas de la subjetividad y jugó un papel formativo en la preocupación fílmica del director con la política del cuerpo. Asimismo, ambas protagonistas femeninas logran superar la homogeneidad y la falta de diferenciación sartreanas; es precisamente esta lucha el fundamento para liberarse de una existencia ‘fija’ impuesta por los hombres que las objet-ivisan.

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Filmography

Belle de Jour. 1967, dir. Luis Buñuel (Valoria). Google Scholar

Carne trémula / Live Flesh. 1997, dir. Pedro Almodóvar (El Deseo S.A.). Google Scholar

Entre tinieblas / Dark Habits. 1983, dir. Pedro Almodóvar (Tesauro). Google Scholar

Kika. 1993, dir. Pedro Almodóvar (El Deseo S.A.). Google Scholar

La ley del deseo / Law of Desire. 1987, dir. Pedro Almodóvar (El Deseo S.A.; Laurenfilm). Google Scholar

La mala educación / Bad Education. 2004, dir. Pedro Almodóvar (El Deseo S.A.; ICAA). Google Scholar

Los abrazos rotos / Broken Embraces. 2009, dir. Pedro Almodóvar (El Deseo S.A.; Sony Pictures Classics). Google Scholar

Los amantes pasajeros / I’m So Excited! 2013, dir. Pedro Almodóvar (El Deseo S.A.). Google Scholar

Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios / Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. 1988, dir. Pedro Almodóvar (El Deseo S.A.). Google Scholar

¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto!! / What Have I Done to Deserve This? 1984, dir. Pedro Almodóvar (Kaktus Producciones Cinematográficas; Tesauro). Google Scholar

Todo sobre mi madre / All About My Mother. 1999, dir. Pedro Almodóvar (El Deseo S.A.). Google Scholar

Volver. 2006, dir. Pedro Almodóvar (El Deseo S.A.). Google Scholar

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Author details

Cacoullos, Anna Torres