Cinema Review: The Human Voice [NYFF 2020] | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Friday, September 29th, 2023  

The Human Voice [NYFF 2020]

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Directed by Pedro Almodóvar

Sep 24, 2020 Web Exclusive
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At a brief 30 minutes, The Human Voice packs a punch. Filmed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the highly experimental film from Spanish icon Pedro Almodóvar comes just over a year after his 2019 hit, Pain and Glory. Based off of Jean Cocteau’s 1930 play of the same name, the film centers around an unnamed character played by Tilda Swinton, who sits in her apartment waiting for a call from the partner who recently abandoned her. As she attempts to cope with her heartbreak in various, and sometimes dangerous, ways, the film gives insight on the idea of relationships, and what it means to move on from our pasts.

The Human Voice can be split right down the middle into two 15-minute shorts. The first half establishes Swinton’s character’s pain and anger through outward displays, such as breaking objects with her newly-purchased axe. The second half is Swinton speaking to her ex on the phone, but only her side of the conversation is heard by the viewer.

Swinton’s enigmatic and bold performance brings her character from Cocteau’s words into the modern day in a strong and dynamic way. The entire film hinges on the strength of her central performance giving the simple narrative complex undertones. It is the energy and realism that Swinton brings to her character that makes each scene captivating.

The Human Voice is a fantastic example of the parts making the whole. Each aspect of Almodóvar’s film is very minimalist. Filmed, for the most part, in a single location, with only Swinton on screen and very few events. Even so, with a script so rich and complex that resonates long after the film’s credits roll, the film is deeply engrossing.

While impressive given how it was filmed and when it was filmed, The Human Voice is a film that would benefit from more bulk. The 30-minute runtime requires less viewer commitment and makes the film easy to digest, but the story is one that could captivate, and be more impactful, as a feature-length film. At certain times, the story seems rushed, and the quick movement from scene to scene makes little plot points easy to forget, especially in the slower first half of the film.

The Human Voice is about the power of human connection, and what can happen when that connection is severed. By always keeping its heartbroken main character at the center of each frame, Almodóvar is able to convey these ideas in a unique and interesting way. Both long-time Almodóvar fans and newbies can find something to love in the film. It contains most of the quirks that the Spanish director is known for, at the same time, it feels like a completely new experiment.


Author rating: 6/10

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