Julieta: A Portrait of Life and Loving

Professor of Spanish Greg Stallings discussed the career of famous Spanish filmmaker, Pedro Amodóvar and themes in his most recent film, Julieta, prior to its screening at the International Cinema.

PROVO, Utah (Oct. 24, 2017)—It was the 1980s in Madrid, Spain. The Spanish dictator Francisco Franco had died just a few years before, and along with him died the oppressive, conservative culture he enforced. In its place was born La Movida Madrileña—the counterculture movement that spiraled from Madrid throughout Spain. Greg Stallings, associate professor of Spanish, in his lecture for International Cinema explained, “It was an explosion of controversial music, punk rock, techno pop.” As the blanket of oppression lifted off the country, a newfound sense of liberalism and freedom permeated society, inspiring Pedro Almodóvar, a filmmaker whose self-taught talent quickly garnered international praise. Stallings discussed Almodóvar’s style and his most recent film, Julieta.

Speaking of La Movida Madrileña, Stallings said, “[Almodóvar’s] films fit in very well with that movement. They were scandalous. People in this country started calling him the Madonna of Spanish cinema.” Today, with 20 films behind him, Almodóvar is still well known internationally. He has won two Academy Awards for best foreign film, and his most recent film, Julieta, has found an especially warm reception in Great Britain. What’s more, Stallings added, “He writes his own screenplays. He’s not only a great director but he’s a brilliant guionista (screenwriter).”

Stallings took the audience through the evolution of Almodóvar’s career, from his early “subversive comedies,” which had all the marks of postmodern film, to six of his films in the 1990s and early 2000s, representing what people call his vintage period. After his later films, which Stallings called his “crazy, insane . . . experimental projects,” Julieta is seen by many as a return to his earlier, beloved film style.

Stallings was particularly fascinated by Almodóvar’s choice for source material for Julieta. Although he had only filmed three text adaptations, Almodóvar admitted that he was so struck by the story, taken from certain short stories in the collection of Canadian writer Alice Munro, that he wanted to turn it into a film. Julieta follows the story of a young woman as she matures and eventually must confront the trauma of her estrangement from her daughter.

Stallings urged the audience to pay special attention to the use of color—especially red and blue—in the film. Almodóvar is quoted as saying, “I don’t want to imitate life in movies. I want to represent it. And in that representation you use the colors you feel . . . but always it’s to show one emotion.” Red is associated with Spanish women who protested for the Republic. Stallings said, “The political movements which they favored—anarchism, communism—[are] associated with the color red to this very day.” Red also represents the Spanish Civil War. Blue is associated with Franco and the Spanish fascist army, as well as the repression of women under Franco’s rule. In so many of Almodóvar’s female-centered films, blue is considered the “bad” color.

Remarking on the score composed by famous composer Alberto Iglesias, Stallings said, “It sounds like music from a Hitchcock movie but violins are arriving to a crescendo, you feel really tense . . . and yet nothing happens. So what’s up with this film? My theory is that Almodóvar can show that daily life is full of emotion; daily life is suspenseful. [It] is something to pay attention to.” In an interview, Almodóvar explained how devastating it is to lose a child in Spanish culture. He compared the connection between mother and daughter to an umbilical cord that is never cut. The film takes very seriously the trauma Julieta suffers after her daughter’s abandonment. Stallings closed by sharing a viewer comment about the film from The Independent: “Amodóvar and European cinema in general seems to keep open that vital door onto our inner life, giving the viewer a sense of what really counts in our everyday existence.”


Olivia Madsen (BA French language ’18)

Olivia covers events for the International Cinema in the College of Humanities. She is a senior pursuing a degree in French language with a minor in international development.


Photos from Cleveland Scene, Cineuropa, The Hollywood Reporter