“Madres Paralelas” in the cinema: a political Almodovar to settle Spain’s past

(AFP) – He had not said everything about mothers: in “Madres Paralelas” (Parallel mothers), in theaters Wednesday, Pedro Almodovar finds his favorite subjects, filiation and female figures, with a film that also wants help Spain heal the wounds of the Civil War.

The favorite actress of the Spanish filmmaker, Penélope Cruz, won with this film the prize for best actress at the Venice Film Festival last September.

She plays Janis (a nod to American singer Janis Joplin), a forty-something photographer. She becomes pregnant with an archaeologist and married friend, who has promised to help her find the burial place of her great-grandfather, who disappeared at the start of the Spanish Civil War.

A topical issue in Spain, where the government is working to advance the work of memory and bring out of the mass graves the thousands of victims of the Franco dictatorship.

According to estimates by historians and descendants of the victims, more than 100,000 victims of the Civil War (1936-1939), won by Franco, who then ruled Spain with an iron fist until his death in 1975 , are in mass graves.

“We cannot settle our history definitively until we have paid our debt to the missing,” said the former enfant terrible of Movida at the Venice Film Festival.

“In Spanish homes, at home for example, nobody talked about the war”. Today, in Spain, “it is the generations of small children who ask for the bill”, because this collective trauma was put under the carpet “with the arrival of democracy”, he continued.

– “Imperfect mothers” –
The one who films women and the liberation of manners since his beginnings in the 1980s (“Pepi, Luci, Bom and the other girls in the neighborhood”) remains faithful to his themes and his style, even if he has settled down. . He weaves around this mother who is looking for her ancestor a plot with drawers, without however finding the strength of his most striking films.

Alongside Penélope Cruz, the director hired a young actress, Milena Smit, 24. She plays Ana, a young woman who gives birth at the same time as Janis, in the same maternity hospital.

For them, as for the generation of their mothers or grandmothers, who lost a father or a husband during the civil war, the world is being built without men, cowardly, absent or violent.

Both will see their fate turned upside down: Ana, because her baby succumbs to sudden death, Janis because DNA tests prove that she is not the mother of her child. Against a backdrop of shameful secrecy, a romantic relationship will be formed between these two single mothers, caught up in the past.

The author of “Volver”, “Parle avec elle” or “The bad education” is once again inspired by a childhood “surrounded by women”, his mother as well as his neighbors. But with this film, he chose to portray “imperfect, questionable mothers, or at least going through very difficult times”, and not “omnipotent” maternal characters.

The plot is also imbued with recent questions: renewal of feminism (Penélope Cruz wears a T-Shirt “We should all be feminists” at home), or harassment on social networks.

Penélope Cruz did not hesitate to say once again “yes” to the most iconic of Spanish directors: “He is a difficult character”, she explained in Venice. This film “was quite a journey, very intense but very good”.