Pedro Almodóvar is one of Spain’s leading filmmakers, having won an Oscar for best screenplay in 2003 for Talk To Her and his latest semi-autobiographical feature, Pain and Glory, being nominated for best international film and best actor for its’ star, Antonio Bandares. With an extremely successful career spanning over 40 years, Almodóvar hasn’t made an English language film, until now.
Based off the play by Jean Cocteau, The Human Voice tells the story of a woman who awaits the return of her ex to their apartment so they may pick up the remainder of their possessions. As she soon realizes they aren’t coming back, she struggles to deal with the abandonment and what to do with the dog they adopted together, who also fails to understand they have been abandoned.
This short film wears its theatrical influence on its sleeve as it relies mostly on a monologue given by its protagonist and the exceptional acting talents on the films lead, Tilda Swinton. Although the source material doesn’t give a lot of opportunity to be cinematic, Almodóvar works his magic as he makes the surreal decision to set the film in a sound stage in Spain. I believe this could be argued to represent the façade of Swinton’s relationship with her ex and as the film progresses; Almodóvar uses this location perfectly to creatively express the end of her relationship.
Overall, The Human Voice can’t fully separate itself from the stage; however, Almodóvar does his best to inject creative cinematic meaning into his first English language film. With a surreal yet easily understandable use of location and a reliably exceptional lead performance from Tilda Swinton, The Human Voice is an interesting look at what Almodóvar can bring to English language cinema.