Directed by Pedro Almodovar
THERE IS much to admire in Pedro Almodovar, the Spanish film director. At last year's Venice Film Festival he delivered a forceful and poetic polemic against Bush, Blair and the war against Iraq. Almodovar was back in the centre of a storm a few weeks ago, when he criticised the Spanish government's response to the Madrid train bombings in the run-up to March's general election.
Almodovar's latest film, Bad Education, has added to his notoriety. It is a searing attack on the oppressive role of the Catholic church in fascist Spain, causing yet more political controversy around the director. Bad Education is the complex and moving story of Enrique, a film director, and Ignacio, his childhood lover. Ignacio turns up in the director's office after 20 years looking for work as an actor.
Ignacio is armed with a script that tells the story of the boys' powerful first love. Almodovar evokes the relationship as full of the pubescent lust and overwhelming intoxication that so many of us experience.
It is also a relationship cut brutally short in its discovery by Father Manolo, a priest at the boys' authoritarian Catholic school. Manolo expels Enrique and sexually abuses Ignacio. The understated scenes that flash back to this abuse create a real sense of menace. They highlight the powerlessness of a small boy trying to stop his abuser in the face of a blind eye turned by the Catholic church.
The film is multi-layered and moves with ease between past and present, fiction and reality, throwing up many questions about identity and sexuality. It is a sumptuous film that deserves a wide audience.