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The Human Voice
Director Pedro Almodóvar, 2020
Based loosely on Jean Cocteau’s play, The Human Voice follows 24 hours in the life of a mysterious, glamorous woman (Tilda Swinton), who becomes tired of waiting after her partner doesn’t return home for four days. The woman, on the brink of mental collapse, spends this time alone reflecting on her relationship and her life’s purpose, questioning what exactly it is she’s waiting for.
Pedro Almodóvar’s latest film is only 30 minutes in length, but, because of its striking imagery and slightly distressing narrative, it is bound to stay with you long after the credits roll. The story is simple but shocking: it takes a turn you wouldn’t expect and then turns around again, keeping you gripped to the screen the entire time. But The Human Voice’s most attractive element (and I say that literally) is its design. Almodóvar’s use of colour is far superior to most filmmakers currently working, as his colours, paired with his grand and beautiful sets, become works of art in their own right, able to transport you into another world. Between the vividness of the set’s geometric colours, the vibrancy of the textiles and clothing and the alien otherness of Swinton herself, The Human Voice transforms on the screen, making you feel as if you stepped into a twisted Dr Seuss reality.
Yet, perhaps it’s this otherworldliness that makes The Human Voice so reflective of this time, while not subjecting itself entirely to this time. The Human Voice was shot during the COVID-19 lockdown, with the cast and crew practising social distancing on set. This was one of the first films to be made in the post-COVID world, and there are elements that reflect that (most notably Swinton’s isolated performance - just her and a dog, a lifestyle experienced by many during the past year). Almodóvar captures the essence of 2020 without grounding the themes and narrative in this time, not having to hit us over the head with the symbolism - something only an artist with the finest skills could achieve.
The Human Voice is in cinemas from 7th November
Director Chloé Zhao, 2020
“The thing about this life is there’s no final goodbye; it’s ‘I’ll see ya down the road’.”
Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland won, and rightfully so, the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival earlier this year. It follows a 60-something woman (Frances McDormand, who offers one of the best performances of the last decade), who’s still grieving the death of her husband, as she embarks on a life as a nomad in 21st-Century America after her small town becomes extinct due to the 2008 economic crash. The film tracks her encounters with other nomadic people trekking through the vast American landscape, building lasting, meaningful friendships with people she only meets in passing. Armed with just a ratty old van, Fern experiences what modern life is like when you have nothing but your soul and the American land.
In a time when America feels so dark and full of hate, Zhao’s film reminds us of the beauty of the American spirit, the fundamentals this nation was built on, the love of humanity and nature, the purity of human nature. Zhao captures, both through the landscape and the characters, the essence of what modern America is: it’s a nation that never ceases to amaze, to enlighten and to inspire, full of people who embrace each others’ differences and flaws, finding love in even the smallest of places. Zhao’s America is where we need to, and can, return; we just simply got lost on the road.
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