Penelope Cruz photographed by Nico Bustos for Harper’s Bazaar Russia (January 2021)
Penelope Cruz by Greg Williams
I’m gonna write a movie about a Spanish couple that are actors and even though they have stablished successful careers they continue to take latinx roles and deprive latinos and latinas from work and I know EXACTLY who to cast
Oscar Isaac and Salma Hayek would be perfect wouldn’t they?
Director Pedro Almodóvar is without a doubt one of, if not the, most celebrated and influential Spanish directors of the last few decades. Following the cultural revolution of sorts that followed the death of fascist dictator Franco, Almodóvar brought the perspectives of those who had been oppressed under his militaristic regime to light. His films tend to focus on the struggles of women in particular, and his 2006 film Volver is no different.
This emotionally charged drama is at heart a tale of sisterhood and, as the title would suggest, of returning; returning home, returning to family, returning in a more metaphorical sense to another existence with death. The very first scene takes place in a graveyard, an apt image to begin this story. Diligent women are cleaning the graves, an act deeply ingrained in the culture of La Mancha, where the scene is set. Among them is our main protagonist, Raímunda, played by Penelope Cruz.
For Cruz, this is a return in itself, having worked with Almodóvar on All About My Mother (1999). The same can be said for the brilliant Carmen Maura, who plays Raimunda’s thought-to-be-deceased mother. In the world of Almodóvar, this genuinely is something of a return from the dead: Maura had not worked with the director since his fantastic Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown in 1988, in which she played the starring role. In fact, the returns don’t stop there, given that the director was born in La Mancha - in some ways, he himself was returning home.
The director has himself claimed that this introductory scene is intended to establish all of the film’s predominant themes and in this it certainly succeeds. The ominous, howling wind, a symbol of madness and spirits, ravages the landscape, whilst the deep reds in conjunction with the gravestones lay the foundation for death and violence (the title is even written on a tombstone). It is a great example for aspiring filmmakers and storytellers to study, and if that weren’t enough, it leads into one of the most raw and intimate dramas of one of the all time great directors.
Volver (2006) is available for streaming on the BFI Player and Amazon Prime Video.
Penélope Cruz - Marie Claire [France] (February 2021)
Penelope Cruz – Harper’s Bazaar Russia January 2021
PAUL WALKER / PENELOPE CRUZ
Volver (2006) dir. Pedro Almodóvar - essay coming tomorrow.
Penelope Cruz in Sahara
Jamón, Jamón (1992)
dir. Bigas Luna