The Human Voice
Veteran Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) has adapted Jean Cocteau’s short play The Human Voice into this extremely stylish, brilliantly realised short film of the same name. A strange tale, characterised by internal turmoil, the release seems timely, with Almodóvar clearly playing on the isolation, uncertainty and anxieties so keenly felt during the various stages of lockdown people have endured the world over this past year.
Almodóvar calls in Tilda Swinton to play the unnamed protagonist. The role is tailor-made for the actress, as the character explores a range of emotions, at battle with herself in a long-running monologue war. Swinton excels. Although the film runs at just under half an hour, as the story’s only focus and practically its sole actual character (save for a couple of shop assistants and her dog), Swinton must hold the audience’s complete attention. It’s a stunning performance of sheer acting force.
On a colourful set resembling a stage, the central character plays out the throes of her suffering. One monologue explains she has recently left a four-year relationship. Enduring this anguish, the woman approaches her strife with desperation and cynicism, and invites fleeting moments of acerbic wit. Swinton has always had fun introducing moments of humour into her often emotionally complicated roles (see her performances in Wes Anderson productions, among others), and she clearly enjoys these 30 minutes.
It’s intimately shot: close-ups of the actress’s distressed countenance abound, and a stripped-back script, ingenious by itself, is electrified by the star. By way of plot, there’s little more than a series of monologues expressing and indicating the protagonist’s fragile head-space; she slinks around her apartment, a little lost, a little vulnerable, before the film explodes and extinguishes in a final act of mad defiance, an assault on the woman’s unrest.
The Human Voice is released on 19th May 2021.
Watch the trailer for The Human Voice here: