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Bad Education - Extracts from an interview with Almodovar



Compiled by: Jack Foley

Q. In Law of Desire (1986), the transsexual played by Carmen Maura goes into the church of the school where she studied as a boy. She finds a priest playing the organ, in the choir. The priest asks her who she is. Carmen confesses to him that she had been a pupil at the school and that he (the priest) had been in love with him. Is that the origin of Bad Education?
A.
More or less. Long before that, I had written a short story in which a transvestite goes back to the school where he had studied in order to blackmail the priests who had harassed him when he was a boy. While filming Law of Desire, I remembered that story and it gave me the idea of Carmen’s character going into the church at his school and meeting a priest who loved him when she was a boy. By then, I was considering the idea of developing the short story in detail. Carmen is a foreshadow of Zahara.

Q. There is also a film director in Law of Desire?
A.
Yes, and like Fele Martinez’s character, he mixes his personal desires with his work and, in the end, he pays a very high price for it. I’ve always been interested by the story of the artist who works with his own guts. It’s a fascinating adventure, even if it never ends well.

Q. In your statemenets, you denied that the film was autobiographical…
A.
Paco Umbral says that everything that isn’t autobiographical is plagiarism. The film is autobiographical, but in a deeper sense. I am behind those characters, but I’m not telling my life story.

Q. I believe you were the soloist in your school choir?
A.
Yes. And I sang all the time, masses in Latin, motets, etc. I sang all the religious ceremonies and the celebrations. And I guess I didn’t do it badly. The priests recorded some of the songs I sang and played them at the door of the church to attract the faithful.
And I remember that we filled the church. I’d give anything to recover those tapes, but I don’t think they exist. What I most enjoyed in my time at school were the religious ceremonies. I’m agnostic, but I think the Catholic liturgy has a dazzling richness, it fascinates me and moves me. But it’s been a long time since I went to mass. I don’t know what it’s like now.

Q. Does Fr Manolo exist?
A.
Yes, as a character.

Q. But did he really exist?
A.
No. He’s a made-up character, although, for some scenes, I was inspired by two priests at school.

Q. For what scenes in particular?
A.
The harassment by the river and in the sacristy.

Q. Are they real scenes?
A.
Two schoolmates told me about them. If you’re a boarder at a school, you eventually find out about everything.

Q. If the two people who were the inspiration for Fr Manolo are alive, aren’t you afraid they may react?
A.
Admitting that they were being alluded to would be like accusing themselves. I’m a director and a scriptwriter. For me, Fr Manolo is a character, one with whom, I should mention in passing, I’m very satisfied.
The character isn’t a weapon thrown against the Catholic church (which does have a lot of problems to solve, including its priests’ sexuality. If celibacy didn’t exist, there wouldn’t be so many cases of abuse). I didn’t create Fr Manolo and his prolongation, Mr Berenguer, in order to attack the church.
They are elements that allow me to talk about two of the many faces of passion. When Fr Manolo is played by Daniel Giménez-Cacho, the passion he feels for the boy, and his abuse of power, make him into an executioner.
When he calls himself Mr Berenguer and has cast off his habits and falls in love with Juan, the same terrible character plays the opposite role in the roulette of passion. Now he is a victim.
The film is inconceivable without these two characters, who are really one, and without their incarnation, by Daniel Giménez-Cacho and Lluis Homar respectively. Although they are two veterans, they were two great discoveries for me.
I can never thank them enough for their lack of prejudice, their depth and their unending willingness to satisfy all the demands of a director as insatiable as I am.

Q. What can you tell me about the rest of the cast?
A.
They are superb. Fele Martinez, Francisco Boira, the kids, Javier Càmara, Alberto Ferreiro, Petra Martinez, Francisco Maestre, and, naturally, Gael. It’s a miracle to get it right with all the actors, especially when you don’t know any of them, except Javier and Fele.

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