Faking memory
La mala educación
in The cinema of Pedro Almodóvar
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This chapter argues that the poetic or aesthetic is the dominant function in La mala educación, a film that is structured around ellipses, employing metonymy to great effect, characteristics typical of literature of the Spanish Transition. In Almodóvar’s first historical film, temporal complexity and mise-en-abyme pull viewers in different directions at plot level and in relation to issues such as the film’s autobiographical nature, its use of history and public memory, and the representation of LGBTQ+ identities and desire. The film encourages a distrust of representations of the past and uses postmodern techniques with an ethical intent, but prosthetic memories are shown to be seductive even when surrounded by signs of their artificiality. La mala educación draws attention to the role played by Spanish culture (including Almodóvar himself) in the elision of discordant memories about the past and the creation of a collective memory whereby the strictures of the dictatorship are something that the country has left behind, something that is questioned here. In-depth analysis of the film’s metacinematic features and its mirroring of the Transition’s silencing of alternative histories highlights how filmmaking is perceived as archaeological or detective work.

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