Sunday, April 03, 2005


I have a headache and it hurts to think but something keeps popping up in my mind while I'm working on operative notes for a hospital in New Jersey. Figures. And, no, it isn't about hiking and backpacking this time, but they are never far from my thoughts as I take trail journal breaks in between sending and getting more work.

Here goes:

I finally got through the movies I took out from the local library. Two of them turned out to be foreign films. (Well, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is also a foreign film come to that, but it doesn't need subtitles because I speak nearly the same language as the Brits.)

Anyway, The movie is called Talk to Her/Hable con Ella. There are two women, one a dancer and the other a bullfighter, who are in comas in a persistent vegetative state (no, it's not like Terri Schiavo -- may she rest in peace and her husband fry in whatever hell he believes in). The dancer, Alicia, was hit by a car in the rain four years before and the bullfighter, Lydia, was gored by a bull just days/weeks before. Part of the story is told in flashback. Alicia's nurse, Benigno, took care of his mother for 15 years because she was too lazy to take care of herself and did so during his teenage and early adult years until she died. Alicia took classes in the dance studio across the street from Benigno's home and he watched her and fell in love. One day she dropped her wallet and he raced out of the building to pick it up and return it to her, following her to her home to find out her father was a psychiatrist. He makes an appointment in hopes of seeing Alicia and does -- but not in the usual way. A few days later when it was raining, Alicia failed to come to the studio and she never came again.

In the meantime, Benigno has been hired by a local hospital as a nurse and her father hires the best nurses to take care of her while she is in a coma. Benigno is the best. He cares for her every day and most nights, giving another of the nurses the night off to be with her children after a messy divorce, and unbeknownst to the hospital administration. This is a no-no, but you don't figure that out until later.

Benigno talks to Alicia while he takes care of her, sharing all his experiences on his day off when he goes to see the ballet or the cinema when they're playing silent films (seemingly of modern vintage), and even reading magazines to her in the sunshine. He cuts her hair. He bathes her with another female nurse. He massages her muscles to keep them supple for when she wakes up and begins to walk and dance again. He loves her.

Enter Marco, a journalist who has fallen in with a female bullfighter just coming out of a messy breakup with another bullfighter, El Nino de Valencia, and phobic about snakes. She finds one in her kitchen and runs out screaming. Marco goes in and kills the snake and throws it in the trash with tears in his eyes, but Lydia will not return to the house or take anything out of it. Everything has been tainted by the snake's presence.

Several months later, she is gored by a bull before she can tell Marco something important, something that will change their relationship.

She is taken to the hospital where Benigno works and sees a naked Alicia who is being bathed and changed through a crack in the door. Marco and Benigno become friends and the rest of the story you will have to find out for yourself. Just remember, these two men have brushed against each other before at a ballet.

The real interesting part of the movie is the silent film about the Shrinking Lover, a movie that changes Benigno's view of life and how he sees the comatose Alicia, whom he loves. The imagery in the movie is stark and fragmented like all silent films, but there is a scene with the now approximately 10-inch high lover where he waits for his scientist girlfriend, who created the formula that made him shrink, is asleep in bed and he pulls off the covers, exposing her breasts. He climbs the rosy-tipped mountains, rolling like a dog in clover between the creamy mounds, and looks down the length of her naked and exposed body. He hikes down to the inverted furry triangle between her thighs and climbs down to the sheets, gazing up in wonder at the fur-rimmed opening. He inserts one hand and wipes the moisture off on his other hand and down the insides of her thighs. Then he takes off his shirt and looks inside, awe and excitement clearly stamped on his face. he gasps for air and turns back toward the opening, slides off his trousers and climbs back inside...and never comes out.

It is a very fascinating scene and reminiscent of the old joke that men fight their way out of the womb and spend the rest of their lives trying to get back in.

The movie is definitely worth watching and the story lines and issues are those Americans never discuss, and therefore all the more worthy of seeing.

Get a little culture in your life and take the extra time to listen to the commentary by director Pedro Almodovar and Geraldine Chaplin, who plays Alicia's dance teacher. The ballet scenes alone are worth seeing, but the movie itself is sheer fantasy with a dagger at its heart.

No wonder I have a headache. Doctors who can't speak English properly dictating intricate surgeries and the morality and wonder of other worlds.

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