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‘The Human Voice’ review: Tilda Swinton revels in Almodóvar’s short film

In his first English feature, the director has made the restrictions of the pandemic his strengths

For his first English feature, Pedro Almodóvar chooses to “freely adapt” Jean Cocteau’s 1930 monodrama. The statuesque Tilda Swinton plays an actor of a certain age, with a face that is “a mixture of melancholy and madness.” She has been waiting for three days for her departing lover to pick up his suitcases and his dog, Dash, who clearly is distressed by the absence of his master.

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Apart from the opening sequence where Swinton’s character (she is not named) goes to a hardware to store to buy a little axe (gosh what is she going to do with it?), the rest of the film is set in a beautifully appointed apartment. The apartment feels simultaneously claustrophobic and spacious.

The Human Voice

  • Director: Pedro Almodóvar
  • Cast: Tilda Swinton
  • Story line: A woman has a conversation with her departing lover
  • Duration: 30 minutes

The woman goes through all the emotions of a breakup from grief and rage to renewal and rebirth—she attacks her lover’s suit with the axe (phew). The clothes are, in a word, lovely, featuring a lot of Almodóvar’s favourite scarlet from a Balenciaga crinoline dress to a knitted outfit (yummy). There is also a velvet gown, a leather jacket and floral shirt—all to die for.

Shot in July 2020, The Human Voice has made the restrictions of the pandemic its strengths. After Solos, this is another riveting single-actor gig. Cocteau wrote the play as a gift for his actors who complained that his plays did not give them enough room to perform. Swinton is eminently watchable in the lovely looking (the eye-popping title sequence sets the tone) film. And yes, Dash moves on from his master’s abandonment.

The Human Voice is currently streaming on BookMyShow stream

 

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