Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dark Habits

Almodovar's third full length feature shows a lot of improvement over his first release. I would like to get my hands on his second film, Labyrinth of Passion, to see if the shift took place in the second film or this film. In Dark Habits, Almodovar is still playing to the camp element one saw in his first feature. But, the camp element is played down... a lot. In place of the over the top raunch of Pepi, Luci, Bom, Almodovar has inserted a lot of dark humor. It is most likely Almodovar's early films are in response to the government shift in Spain. The control of the government loosened its control of the arts. Almodovar responded through film and used film to express his opinions in extreme ways.

Dark Habits is a mild attack on religion. The film follows the nuns of a convent named the Order of the Humiliated Redeemers. As you can see, Almodovar is poking fun, but does it so obviously as to not be hateful. The film follows a cabaret singer who runs from the police after her boyfriend overdoses on drugs she gives him. I like to think of this film as the more adult, Spanish Sister Act. Yolanda, the cabaret singer, runs away to the local nunnery. The Mother Superior is a fan of Yolanda and is willing to help her hideout from the police. (See the Sister Act relation?)

The nuns are all given names to cause humiliation- Sister Manure, Sister Damned, Sister Snake, and Sister of the Sewer Rat. Again, this is very funny in relation to the film. All of the nuns have their own odd behaviors. One of the nuns writes smutty, cheap romance novels. Another nun is always tripping on acid and uses her hallucinations as a time to cook. Another nun keeps an adult tiger as her son. The Mother Superior- a lesbian with a heroine addiction. As you can guess, all of this leads to some pretty funny scenes.

Dark Habits isn't all humor. As I said, there is a lot of dark humor taking place. In fact, the film as a whole is pretty dark. With an ending that is quite sad. This film is made up of a mostly female cast. This is very common for Almodovar's film. I was reminded of the mostly female ensemble of Volver while watching this film. Almodovar is known for his bright, vivid, technicolor films. But, in his earlier films, Almodovar was not keen on bright colors. The film is filled with shadows and maintains a monotone color scheme.

Dark Habits is definitely the stepping stone for the future films of Almodovar. A quirky, dark comedy with just enough emotion to impact the viewer a little.


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