Why does Almodóvar present a controversially sympathetic representation of a paedophile priest?

Bad Education (2004)

 In this essay, I am going to talk about Pedro Almodóvar, a Spanish filmmaker who was significantly affected by the Post-Franco Spain where “Spanish cinematography were severely prejudiced by the political tribulations which afflicted post-war Europe.”(Keown, 2005, p.67) “His films show a propensity toward representations of gendered violence, including sexual abuse, paedophilia, domestic abuse, and rape.” (Saenz, 2013, p.244) All these characteristic can be found in Bad Education (Almodóvar, 2004) which is focusing on a story arc about a young boy and a priest who is presented in a sympathetically controversial way.

 The scene where Enrique and Juan are at the pool Almodóvar emphasises the pure lust between man and man, highlighting their masculinity which “insistently linked to illness, pathology, and death in the director’s films”. (Allbritton, 2013, p.226) In spite of the relationship between Enrique and Juan, there is a huge contrast in the connection between Ignacio and the priest. Therefore, the desire that is seen in the scene where Ignacio sings for him in front of his fellow priests operates with plenty of feelings and emotions which makes the priest vulnerable. The child abuse unfold in the part where they are singing the Spanish edition of Moon River, “the film’s graphic design of splitting the image in half, this moment also evokes the experience of disassociation which is known to be a common symptom of childhood sexual abuse.” (Saenz, 2013, p.252) Although, Almodóvar has been anticlerical about this topic’s earnestness until then, “Certainly in 2004 Almodóvar no longer dares to present the childhood flashback as a parody anymore.” (Kercher, 2015, p.66)

Bad Education (2004) ‘Moon River Scene’
“While the narrative never punishes Father Manolo for his misdeed, his actions do have serious psychological consequences for the real-life Ignacio in the flashback sequence that reveals Ignacio’s sexual abuse.” (Saenz,2013, p.251)

 Alongside lust and passionate love there is a third kind of relationship which is found between Senor Berenguer and Juan shadowed by Juan’s ulterior motives. Almodóvar tends to reveal it by using the scene at the cinema and the posters behind the characters when they walk by. Double Indemnity (1944), La bête humaine (1938 ) and Thérèse Raquin (1953) have a lot to say about their darkened link and action. When Senor Berenguer cries in the rain, Almodóvar let us feel empathy for him and forces the audience to consider forgiving him as he is only just a vulnerable, pathetic human being who has done terrible things for his love. Why did the director frame him in a controversially sympathetic way?

Bad Education (2004)

 Almodóvar admitted in an interview how fascinating the priest’s character: “Sadly, I am not a believer in Catholicism, but the priest is probably my favorite character in Bad Education. I love characters who are crazy in love and will give their life to passion, even if they burn in hell.” (Motskin, 2004) He tries to highlight the fact that we tend to underestimate the power of someone who sacrifices its own emotions on the altar of love. Even though, it never had a literally explanation or interpretation in the film the last word we see on the screen is ‘passion’. “Bad Education is a film that wants to tell but doesn’t quite want us to know, wants to show but wants us to work at that seeing, it doesn’t want us to easily come to a fuller understanding.” (Arroyo, 2013)



~ Allbritton, D. (2013). Paternity and Pathogens: Mourning Men and the Crises of Masculinity in Todo Sobre Mi Madre and Hable Con Ella. In M. Vernon, K. & D’Lugo, M. (Eds.), A Companion to Pedro Almodóvar (pp.225-243) Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

~ Almodóvar, P. (Dir.) (2004). La Mala Educacion {Motion Picture}. Spain: El Deseo

~ Arroyo, J. (2013, November 28). Autobiography and Bad Education (Pedro Almodóvar, Spain 2004) {Blog post}. Retrieved from https://notesonfilm1.com/2013/11/28/autobiography-and-bad-education-pedro-almodovar-spain-2004/

~ Keown, D. (2005). The critique of reification: a subversive current within the cinema of contemporary Spain. In Everett, W. (Ed), European Identity in Cinema. (pp.66-78). Bristol: Intellect Books Ltd.

~ Kercher, M. D. (2015). Latin Hitchcock: How Almodóvar, Amenábar, De la Iglesia, Del Toro and Campanella Became Notorious. London & New York: Wallflower Press.

~ Saenz, N. (2013). Domesticating Violence in the Films of Pedro Almodóvar. In M. Vernon, K. & D’Lugo, M. (Eds.), A Companion to Pedro Almodóvar (pp.244-261) Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.

~ Motskin, Y. (2004). Empathy for all characters: Pedro Almodóvar on Bad Education. Creative Screenwriting, 2004. Retrieved from https://creativescreenwriting.com/empathy-for-all-characters-pedro-almodovar-on-bad-education/

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