Julieta is a 2016 Spanish film, written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar based on three short stories from the book Runaway by Alice Munro: Chance, Soon and Silence.

Made with Jean-Claude Larrieu as cinematographer and frequent collaborators Alberto Iglesias (score) and Sonia Grande (costume design), the film stars Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte as older and younger versions of the titular protagonist, alongside Daniel Grao, Inma Cuesta, Darío Grandinetti, Michelle Jenner and Rossy de Palma. Julieta has grossed over $20 million worldwide.[1]

He loves Munro’s stories, he says, because “there’s so much about her that I identify with – she’s a housewife who writes” (in recent interviews, he often refers to himself today as “a housewife”). The essence of Munro’s writing, he says, is “a great strangeness. What I like best about her is something that’s impossible to translate to cinema, her commentaries around the main incidents – minor comments – but they become the most important thing in the story. At the end, I feel I know less about the character than at the beginning. For me, that’s a very positive thing.[4]

Original titled, Silencio, because whether through coma, depression or dementia, this is a drama littered with characters living an underworld existence, trapped by the great silence that is the true villain of the piece.[3]

Almodóvar stated that the tone was different to that of his other feminine dramas because: “I wanted something more intense; I wanted something cleaner to make sure the message got through“. Almodóvar also said that he wanted to create something more austere and restrained than his previous films, and reflected on the physical pain he had experience in the past years which he believed to have inspired him to create a piece about solitude.[1]

On the employment of two actresses, Almodóvar later said, “I don’t trust the effects of make-up for aging, and it’s almost impossible for a young woman of 25 to have the presence of someone of 50. It isn’t a matter of wrinkles, it’s something more profound, the passing of time, on the outside and on the inside”.[1]

Emma Suárez also revealed that the use of two actresses was an homage to That Obscure Object of Desire (1977) by Luis Buñuel, in which two actresses also play the same character at different stages in life.[1]

In preparation for the film, Almodóvar encouraged Suárez and Ugarte to read The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), a book on mourning by U.S. author Joan Didion, and Other Lives but Mine (2009) by French writer Emmanuel Carrère for inspiration. Almodóvar also recommended Suárez watch Elevator to the Gallows (1958) by Louis Malle and The Hours (2002) by Stephen Daldry, and that she contemplate Lucian Freud’s paintings.

Suárez stayed alone in Madrid to prepare for the character. “It’s a very tough character. For me it meant going into a pit of darkness where there is abandonment, loneliness and fear“. She also revealed that the two actresses worked on their versions of the character independently; and that the couple were only together on set for the train sequence.[1]

Of working with the pair, Almodóvar said: “I battled a lot with the actresses’ tears, against the physical need to cry. It is a very expressive battle. It wasn’t out of reservedness, but because I didn’t want tears, what I wanted was dejection – the thing that stays inside after years and years of pain[1]. “A tough drama with a hint of mystery: someone who’s looking for someone without knowing why she left.“[2] I adore melodrama, it’s a noble genre, a truly great genre, but I was very clear that I didn’t want anything epic, I wanted something else. Simply put, this had to be a very dry, tearless film“.[1]

Not his best, not his worst, and he still doesn’t seem able to capture the ocean on camera. It might have compared to a sumptuous looking pair of old but very comfortable slippers, were it not for Rossy De Palma’s housekeeper, who seemingly crashed straight out of The Wizard Of Oz with her broomstick intact.

“The story is always interesting, and the performances are generally quite strong (with one glaring exception in Rossy De Palma’s over the top villain-y maid, who seems like she’s stepped out one of Almodovar’s far less subtle, more campy stories). But while the characters are going through tempests of great emotion, the film kept me cool, removed and observational. That’s no crime, but it did keep it from being a powerful experience — it ended up being an ‘interesting and stylish’ one instead. Almodovar has said he intended the film to be seen twice, so one can re-see the scenes understanding the film’s later revelations, and as admire his work I’m willing to give it that chance and see if that deepens the experience.”

31 December 2016 | by runamokprods (US)

[1] Wikipedia. Julieta (film). Retrieved 18 January 2017.
[2] .rogerebert.com. JULIETA. By Godfrey Cheshire, Posted on December 22, 2016. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
[3] theguardian.com. Julieta review – Almodóvar’s five-star return to form. By Mark Kermode. Posted on Sunday 28 August 2016 09.00 BST. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
[4] theguardian.com. Pedro Almodóvar: ‘Nobody sings. There’s no humour. I just wanted restraint’. By Jonathan Romney. Posted on Sunday 7 August 2016 09.00 BST. Retrieved 18 January 2017.
[5] IMDb. Julieta (2016). Retrieved 16 January 2017.

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