Circle lines and memory work
Carne trémula
in The cinema of Pedro Almodóvar
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This chapter analyses Pedro Almodóvar’s first adaptation, Carne trémula, inspired by Ruth Rendell’s eponymous novel. Its main focus is on Almodóvar’s representation of Spanish history and in particular his sceptical reading of contemporary events as a more or less peaceful movement from authoritarian rule to democracy. The film’s use of film genres such as thriller and noir is instrumental in its undermining of the narrative of Spain as having left behind the dark decades of the dictatorship. Spain’s optimistic narrative of the late 1990s frees Almodóvar to explore the country’s past. The form of the film contradicts its optimistic narrative. The film’s scrutiny of post-Transition Spain and contemporary Spain points to a more problematic take on historical memory and the widely accepted narrative about Spain’s exemplary Transition from dictatorship to democracy, exploiting thriller and noir to engage in memory work through the use of ellipses, circularity, chiaroscuro, urban settings, claustrophobic framing, unsettling mise-en-scène, and unbalanced compositions. Detective work prompts spectators to scrutinise Spain’s recent past, reconsidering how much of the dictatorship has survived the Transition.


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