Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

Implicit Biblical Motifs in Almodovar's Hable Con Ella and Volver the Bible as Intertext

Academic journal article Journal of Religion and Popular Culture

Implicit Biblical Motifs in Almodovar's Hable Con Ella and Volver the Bible as Intertext

Article excerpt

Most scholarly contributions on cinema and Bible have focused on films based on biblical stories or characters, containing biblical quotations or symbols, or developing biblical themes (i.e., sin, redemption, paradisiacal place). (1) Many contemporary films, however, suggest a more subtle biblical imagery. In some themes, scenes, or even in the general plot of these films, certain viewers may detect echoes from the Bible, while others may deny their presence altogether. In no way can these biblical motifs be regarded as irrefutable and intentional allusions; however, they may at the same time be consistent with the general purpose of the film, and even shed light on certain aspects of it. (2) The Bible does not here constitute a reference or a source of inspiration in the strict sense. Rather, it appears as part of a larger cultural repertoire on which the director draws to construct the plot, render certain atmospheres, or depict characters without necessarily being aware of the exact origin of the imagery he or she uses (and without this relationship necessarily being traceable). (3)

In this paper, I first want briefly to provide a theoretical basis for conceptualizing intertextual echoes that are neither necessarily intentional nor indisputable, but rather depend on viewers' own backgrounds and perceptions. I will argue that the study of such echoes can be analyzed rigorously, supported by criteria to locate and define them. I will then turn to two recent films by Pedro Almodovar: Volver (2006) and Hable con ella (2002). Almodovar, a Spanish director of the post-Francoist era, makes a good case study considering the consistent insertion of cultural elements (from TV advertisements to actual performances) in his films. (4) Religious allusions, references or settings (suffice it here to mention the films Entre Tinieblas [1983] and La mala educacion [2004]) are frequently part of the depiction of Spanish culture. While these religious elements have already received significant attention, (5) I propose to explore more specifically what I have called "implicit biblical motifs." The word "motif" refers here to a major event (or sequence of events) on which a biblical story is centred, i.e., the main elements of its plot. The biblical motifs are implicit in the two Almodovar films I examine here, since neither of them employs direct quotations, allusions or even clear hints. They may also occur through gender or generational reversal: men's and women's roles, as well relationships between generations, may be inverted.

Some Theoretical Background: Influence and Intertextuality; Allusions and Echoes

Such an enquiry raises the issue of the author's intentionality. In the case of the two films I analyze here, Almodovar never mentions, in any interview or personal note (to the best of my knowledge), the presence of biblical allusions. In fact, Frederic Strauss, who interviewed Almodovar about several of his films, referred to the serpent episode and the Garden of Eden imagery in Hable con ella. He then asked Almodovar whether he wanted to "give a biblical dimension to the story." Almodovar denied it flatly, though he admitted that he liked the interpretation. (6) Which theoretical basis, then, can support an exploration of such echoes, which the director himself declares non-intentional?

Jay Clayton and Eric Rothstein have outlined the evolution of literary theories in regard to the conceptualization of relationships between texts from the eighteenth century to the present. (7) They discern two chief models: "influence" and "intertextuality." The notion of influence has been widely used since the eighteenth century (especially by literary historians) to trace how authors are affected by their predecessors' works. Influence, therefore, describes "relations built on dyads of transmission from one unity (author, work, tradition) to another." (8) In that sense, a text can be regarded as an influence on another when the author of the latter can be showed to have consciously and directly used the former. …

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