Victoria Abril in Pedro Almodóvar’s “Átame!” [1990 Spain]

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It’s about time this little gem went into the blog – Pedro Almodóvar made this much misunderstood black comedy “Átame!” [Eng. Title: Tie me Up! Tie me Down!] as a scathing attack on the concept of marriage and conventional love. While outwardly it may appear as a ‘romantic’ albeit twisted comedy, the irony will not be lost for those looking at it from the protagonists’ perspective.

Storyline:
Delinquent Ricky is released from asylum after the authorities decide it is now okay for him to re-enter society. And Ricky heads straight to the film studios where Marina Osorio is shooting a ‘mainstream’ film with a veteran director. He had been obsessing over her for the past year, since a one-night stand with her at a club – he had escaped from the asylum at the time for a night’s fun. He wants Marina to love him as much as he, get married, and start a family – to live a “normal” life as he puts it.

When Marina spurns his overtures – she wouldn’t even give him a second look – he breaks into her apartment and kidnaps her. His thinking – if she gets to spend time with him, she will get to know him better, and certainly fall in love. Bad boy Ricky – but we soon realise he is not the only one with issues. Former porn actress Marina is also desperately trying to kick her drug habit – she’d just got a lucky break to work on a non-porn film because the wheelchair-bound director (wonder if Almodóvar was thinking of Antonioni when he wrote the screenplay!) is also her fan – damaged people both, the victim and the perpetrator. He gags and ties Marina up every time he needs to leave the apartment – mostly to buy drugs for her ‘toothache’. Ricky doesn’t take sexual advantage of her situation, but Marina nevertheless despises him and tries to escape on a few occasions, unsuccessfully. But one day when he returns bleeding after being robbed and beaten, she pities his misfortune, for it was on her account that he went out looking for drugs. And she falls in love..!

One can easily look at Marina’s change of heart as a symptom of her discovering that someone does indeed care about her in a true sense, or even as a case of Stockholm Syndrome. But Almodóvar goes beyond that and asks us to question the rationale of being ‘tied-down’, to conform, to loose oneself in another person’s life. The message is actually made clear by the film’s provocative ending, which I will not reveal just in case you’re thinking of watching the film.

The film was slated by many critics when it came out, but I’m sure many were made to eat their words upon second viewing. The screenplay, direction, cinematography, editing, and the performances by the main actors are superb, as is the awesome sound track by the legendary Ennio Morricone. Needless to say, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

The cheapest DVD is a letter-boxed PAL version with hard-coded English subtitles (avoid them as I purchased without knowing). I was lucky to later get one from Mexico (from which this compilation was made) but it’s not available now. But there is a version from Spain with optional Spanish subtitles – this is the one I recommend for the moment:
Amazon DVD Link

Off-topic note:
Let me digress a bit here with the fact that after this film, Pedro Almodóvar and Antonio Banderas finally got back working together in Almodóvar’s latest and much anticipated film, “La Piel que Habito” [Eng. Title: The Skin I Live in]. I watched it at the cinema last week (it was a toss-up between this and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” – and I don’t regret my decision one bit) – I can assure you that here we see Almodóvar at his original twisted best that made his films so unique. If this film is running anywhere close to you – DO NOT miss it! It also has plenty of nudity, which I will of course review when it comes out on DVD.


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