The Human Voice review: Tilda Swinton is ‘glorious’ in Pedro Almodovar’s latest

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No one said being alone is easy.

Loosely based on the play of the same name by Jean Cocteau, Pedro Almodovar’s The Human Voice follows a female protagonist, played by Tilda Swinton, who has just been jilted by the man she loves.

Living an isolated existence in her apartment alongside the pet dog that her former lover has also abandoned, the woman has waits for his return to collect his belongings that she has packed into suitcases.

As she grows increasingly unstable over his absence, the 30-minute film builds through a dramatic monologue and to an explosive conclusion.

This is not the first time that Almodovar has drawn inspiration from or used Cocteau’s play in his filmmography, which was also previously adapted by the likes of Italian filmmaker Roberto Rossellini. However, this take sees Almodovar utilise the artifice of cinema to great effect.

Tilda Swinton stars in The Human Voice
(Image: Courtesy of the Pathe UK)

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Breaking the fourth wall, Almodovar shows off the sound stage and constructed apartment film set from multiple angles, while his star dons a series of high-fashion designer clothes that pop amongst the already technicolour surroundings.

The use of bright colours and the lush emotive score from Alberto Iglesias only adds to the feeling that this is quintessential Almodovar, especially when Tilda sorts through a DVD collection featuring the works of cinematic titans such as Douglas Sirk and Quentin Tarantino; the former particularly being one of the Spanish director’s key inspirations.

The colours are bold in the classic Pedro Almodovar fashion
(Image: YouTube/Pathe UK)

Tilda Swinton portrays a woman left on the brink by a difficult break-up
(Image: YouTube/Pathe UK)

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Swinton’s performance itself is also wonderfully melodramatic, offering a simultaneously amusing and emotionally-wrought turn that adds to the theatrical quality of the film. Her work during the central monologue in a fraught phone call is exceptionally mannered.

It is oddly appropriate that this story of hysteria in isolation has been produced and released during the Covid-19 pandemic, adding a timely relevance to the film and a greater sense of wonder that this beautifully shot piece has been made in such trying circumstances.

The UK poster for Pedro Almodovar's short film The Human Voice
(Image: PATHE UK)

The Human Voice's more avant-garde leanings may prove off-putting for some, but on the whole, this is a slice of classic Almodovar and Swinton is clearly enjoying the chance to flex her acting muscles after some time in lockdown.

Verdict

The Human Voice is an utterly gorgeous short film from Pedro Almodovar that features a glorious performance from Tilda Swinton.

The Human Voice is showing as part of BFI London Film Festival 2020 and will show in UK cinemas on November 7 along with a Q and A with Almodovar and Swinton.

What is your favourite Tilda Swinton performance? Let us know in the comments below.

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