10 things about Julieta, according to Pedro Almodóvar
Julieta lives in Madrid with her daughter Antía. They both suffer in silence over the loss of Xoan, Antía’s father and Julieta’s husband. But at times grief doesn’t bring people closer, it drives them apart. When Antía turns eighteen she abandons her mother, without a word of explanation. Julieta looks for her in every possible way, but all she discovers is how little she knows of her daughter. JULIETA talks about the mother’s struggle to survive uncertainty. It also talks about fate, about guilt complexes and about that unfathomable mystery that leads us abandon the people we love, erasing them from our lives as if they had never meant anything, as if they had never existed. Almodovar’s films prompt us to explore the pain in our relationships. And so it’s is with some relief, he provides us with some clues to guide us through the labrynth of emotions that is his latest film Julieta
“The film begins with a close-up of red fabric, we soon discover that a heart is beating within it, Julieta’s heart. The second image is of a sculpture with the texture and color of terracotta. The figure – a naked, seated man - seems like a child being dressed by its mother. It is 2016. The sculpture is seen later, or rather, earlier, in 1985, in the studio of the sculptress who created it, called Ava. The young Julieta of 1985 takes the sculpture of the seated man in her hands.
In the next sequence Ava is molding a new figure with clay, while Julieta looks on. The mud gradually takes the form of male buttocks and legs. “The gods created men and other beings with the help of clay and fire”, says Julieta. Ava listens closely while continuing to mold. Julieta teaches classical literature and she carries on telling her about the creation as if it were a story and ends up confessing that she is pregnant...
The three sequences show the power of women: woman as the creator of man. The man represented by the sculpture is tiny compared to their hands. They pass him from one to the other. The woman not only gives life but she is stronger in order to fight, administer, suffer and enjoy all that life brings with it. Only fate is stronger than her.”
2. HUMAN DESIRE (strangers on a train)
“I’m fascinated by trains. I’d always dreamed of filming on a real train. The train scenes I remember best belong to Hitchcock (The Lady Vanishes, Strangers on a Train, North by North West) and Fritz Lang (Human Desire). When I entered one of the compartments of an old train from the 80s to rehearse, I never thought that the real space on the 1985 trains was so limited. But we all knew that those sequences were crucial for the story, because Julieta’s destiny is traveling on that train, where she comes into contact with the two poles of human existence: death and life. And physical love as a response to death. The two times that we see Julieta feverishly making love with Xoan someone has just died. It is the response of both to the idea of death.
3. THE GOODBYE LOOK
“In 2003, Antía, Julieta and Xoan’s daughter, turns eighteen, she’s an adult and she goes off for three months to a retreat in the Aragonese Pyrenees. Julieta is distraught at being separated from her daughter. Until then they had never been separated. Julieta sees her go through the door and disappear down the stairs. She hides her unease as best she can.
The scene stirs up memories of two other goodbyes from which she has never recovered and which she never mentioned to Antía. One of the goodbyes happened on the train. The second look that tortures her is that of Xoan, the fisherman she met on the same train. Standing at the door of their apartment, seeing how Antía disappears towards the stairs, Julieta remembers the looks of the two men who met their death shortly after she left them on their own….”
4. FATALITY/ CHANCE
“The two tragic goodbyes, the result of chance and bad luck, have marked Julieta’s conscience. The feeling of guilt, which also infects her daughter, slipped into the script without my fully realizing. It appeared when I thought the script was finished, and came from the story itself, almost without the writer’s intervention. Guilt travels in Julieta’s train like a kind of fatal destiny. JULIETA has its literary origin in Alice Munro. Ever since I read Runaway, I thought about adapting three of her stories for the cinema (Chance, Soon and Silence). The three stories have a common protagonist, Juliet, but they’re not consecutive. They are three independent stories and I’ve tried to unify them, inventing what was necessary.”
“I worked on a first draft in Spanish years back, with the original setting of New York. But in the end I was defeated by uncertainty, I wasn’t sure of the script or of my ability to direct in English. I was scared to change language, culture and geography. So I kept the first draft, without any specific plan for it, although I already had the rights to Munro’s stories. I started sniffing around the draft again two years ago. I liked it more than I expected and I tried it again, with the story taking place in Spain. As the Spanish version advanced I moved farther away from Alice Munro, I had to fly with my own wings. Her stories are still the origin of JULIETA, but if it’s difficult to translate the Canadian writer’s style to a discipline as opposed to literature as cinema is, making it into a Spanish story is an impossible task. Admirers of Alice Munro should see in my JULIETA a tribute to the Canadian writer.”
6. THE COLOUR WHITE/CONTAINMENT
“After not hearing anything about her daughter for years, Julieta destroys all the physical reminders of her and moves house. She decides to bury the memory of her, she doesn’t want any object or place to remind her of Antía. Like every big city, Madrid is made up of many different cities. Julieta looks for an area where her daughter had never set foot, an ugly, charmless area, far from the centre where she had lived with her. She rents an impersonal apartment with walls that are painted white, without any objects or pictures adorning it. The silent, austere white reflects emptiness.
The white living space also shows my desires for containment. There isn’t the slightest trace of humor, or any mixing of genres, or so I believe. From the outset I had in mind that JULIETA is a drama, not a melodrama, a genre to which I’m partial. A tough drama with a hint of mystery: someone who’s looking for someone without knowing why she left. Someone with whom you’ve lived for a lifetime disappears from your life without a word. You can’t understand it. It happens, it’s in our nature, but it’s incomprehensible and unacceptable. Not to mention the pain it causes”
7. THE HOUSES/THE DECOR
The first house Julieta rents when she moves to Madrid with her daughter is in a very lively central area. The wallpaper in the apartment has very striking, almost jarring, motifs. “It’s a bit oppressive” Julieta says weakly, accompanied by Antía-child and her little friend Bea, from whom she never separates. Bea says: “No, it’s cool”. And Antía always agrees with Bea. The two girls are keen to rent the apartment because Bea lives in the same neighborhood. Julieta doesn’t have the energy to argue with the girls, she feels too fragile to fight against wallpaper, she’s very weak physically and mentally.
The second house, as I said, is far away from the first, and is just the opposite. White walls, no objects adorning it, furniture with clean, neutral lines. Everything has an impersonal air. This house is the negation of the house in which mother and daughter lived.
Years later, Julieta decides to leave Madrid, with Lorenzo, and never come back. But a chance meeting in the street with Bea, whom she hasn’t seen in years, drives her to change plans. Bea tells her that by chance she met Antía at Lake Como and that she told her that Julieta was still living in Madrid. “And look! A week later I meet you in the street ". It’s enough for Julieta to change her plans drastically. She breaks up with Lorenzo without giving him any explanation (one of so many silences in a story plagued with them), she goes back to the building with the apartment with the striking wallpaper which she’d rented with Antía and Bea, and welcomes the ghost of her daughter.”
“The same concierge who showed Juieta the apartment with Antía and Bea now shows her that apartment in an identical scene. The apartment has the same internal architecture as the previous one, the same light coming through the windows, etc. To the superintendent’s amazement, Julieta rents it. She has decided to wait again for her daughter in the same place where they’d lived together.
I’m a film director and I believe in repetition and rehearsal. The human being finds himself unwittingly involved in situations which he has lived before, as if life were giving us the chance to rehearse the toughest moments before they really arrive.
This idea is present in 'All About My Mother'. The nurse Manuela works for the NTO (National Transplant Organization) informing relatives of the victim’s death and then asking them to donate some of his organs. One fateful night it is Manuela who must undergo that protocol, but as the victim’s mother.
Julieta moves into the apartment with green walls, which is still as bare as when she saw it for the first time. The only piece of furniture is a table where she writes to Antía all that she didn’t tell her when they lived together. On the mantelpiece, her only company, is the seated man sculpted by Ava."
9. OBJECTS, PAINTINGS...
The sculptor Miquel Navarro is the author of The Seated Man and of all the pieces that appear in Ava’s studio. I have lived with the seated man for twenty years and since then I’ve wanted him to appear in one of my films. There are landscapes, songs and objects which, from the time I discover them (or rediscover them, or buy them, if they are objects), I have the feeling that sooner or later they’ll appear in one of my films. I keep them and wait patiently for years until the right film comes along.
It happened with the landscape of the black beach in Lanzarote in Broken Embraces, with the diver in Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, even with the brown towel with which Antía and Bea dry the depressed Julieta. The poster for the Lucien Freud exhibition only waited four years until it found its place on the wall of the new Julieta, who is living through a tranquil period with Lorenzo Gentile. I’m very satisfied with the way in which Freud’s look interacts with Julieta when she searches in the garbage for the blue envelope which she had previously thrown in the wastepaper basket. (The wastepaper basket is my wastepaper basket and I knew that sooner or later it too would end up appearing too.)"
"JULIETA marks my return to the female universe. Almost all the actresses in its long cast were new to me. I had only worked previously with Rossy de Palma and Susi Sánchez. One of the risks I faced from the beginning was that of using two different actresses for Julieta. Adriana Ugarte from twenty five to forty, and Emma Suárez from forty onward.
I’m not in favour of the same actress playing all the ages of the same character. I don’t trust the effects of make-up for aging, and it’s almost impossible for a young woman of twenty five to have the presence of someone of fifty. It isn’t a matter of wrinkles, it’s something more profound, the passing of time, on the outside and on the inside. I accept the convention in the theater, but I reject it in the cinema. But it is risky to use two different women, especially in a film in which one of the characters, Ava, isn’t divided but is played by the same actress, Inma Cuesta.
Now I’m happy about having taken that decision. And I think that Adriana Ugarte and Emma Suárez now form part of my particular Olympus where they rub shoulders with Penélope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Victoria Abril, Marisa Paredes and Cecilia Roth, my muses."
Julieta is in cinemas from tomorrow, 26th August, forshowtimes go to http://www.julietafilm.com/showtimes