Live Flesh (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Pedro Almodóvar|
|Produced by||Agustín Almodóvar|
|Written by||Jorge Guerricaechevarria
|Based on||Live Flesh
by Ruth Rendell
|Music by||Alberto Iglesias|
|Edited by||José Salcedo|
|Distributed by||Warner Sogefilms (Spain)
Orion Pictures (US)
20th Century Fox (Mexico)
Live Flesh (Spanish: Carne Trémula) is a 1997 Spanish romantic drama thriller film, written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar, starring Liberto Rabal, Javier Bardem, and Francesca Neri. The film is loosely based on Ruth Rendell's book Live Flesh.
Madrid, Christmas 1970: with the nation under a state of emergency ordered by the Franco regime, a young prostitute, Isabel Plaza Caballero (Penélope Cruz), gives birth on a bus to a son she names Victor. Twenty years later, Victor Plaza (Liberto Rabal) shows up for a date he made with Elena (Francesca Neri), a junkie with whom he had sex a week earlier. Waiting for her dealer to arrive, Elena is not interested in seeing Victor and tells him to leave. Finally she gets a gun and orders him out of the flat. Enraged, Victor wrestles the gun from her; in the process Elena gets knocked out, and the gun goes off.
A neighbor hears the shot and calls the police; and two cops respond to the report. The older cop, Sancho (Jose Sancho), is an unstable alcoholic who suspects his wife Clara (Angela Molina) of infidelity. The younger cop, David (Javier Bardem), more clean-cut and sober, prefers to do things by the book. Through the window they catch sight of Victor physically struggling with Elena, and Sancho is ready to storm in, while David wants to call for a back-up. When they enter, Victor holds Elena hostage with her gun. David tries to calm him down and get him to drop his gun, but Sancho sabotages his efforts by continually threatening Victor. Finally, David puts his gun to Sancho's head, gets him and Victor to put down their guns and orders Elena to flee. Sancho then lunges for Victor, they wrestle for the gun, and another shot rings out, hitting David.
Two years later, Victor, in jail, watches a wheelchair basketball match: the now partially paralyzed David is a star player in the 1992 Summer Paralympics, with Elena, who is now his wife, cheering him on from the sidelines. Victor has made good use of his time, taking a correspondence course in education, working out, and enriching his mind with a variety of subjects, including the Bible. Before he is released, another four years later, his mother dies and leaves him some money and a house in the slums. One of his first stops after he gets out of jail is his mother's grave, where he encounters Elena at her father's funeral. While leaving the cemetery he meets Clara, Sancho's wife.
Elena, now off drugs and operating an orphanage, tells David of her encounter with Victor. David stops by Victor's house and warns him not to go near his wife. Victor queries how he can do this, but David grabs his genitals and he doubles up. When David gets into his car to leave, he sees Clara arriving, and stay on to watch from a distance. Attracted by Victor's enthusiasm and good looks, Clara agrees to teach him how to make love, as well as pampering him with gifts and affection. She eventually falls in love with him. Victor begins to volunteer at the orphanage, which is happy to have him because he fixed the boiler, has a degree in education and is very good with the children. Elena objects, but can't find a compelling reason to throw Victor out.
David continues to trail Victor and finds out that Victor works at Elena's orphanage. He confronts him again; Victor tells him that it was Sancho who made Victor squeeze the trigger. Afterwards, David tells his wife what Victor said, and the revealing context that Sancho shot David because he was having an affair with Clara. Elena is disgusted, but still plans to leave the orphanage to get away from Victor. Victor tells Elena that his original plan of revenge was to become the world's greatest lover, make love to Elena all night long, and then leave her hanging, but that he still loves her too much to do so.
Victor tells Clara that they should stop meeting, and they break up. While Victor is on night-shift at the orphanage, Elena comes in to remove her belongings, and agrees to a night of passion with Victor, on condition that he never contacts her again. Elena tells David herself about her infidelity, and although she plans to stay with him, he plots his own revenge. Clara leaves Sancho, who was abusing her, shooting him in the process. David shows up at Sancho's place with photographic proof of Victor and Clara's affair. Sancho and David drive to Victor's house, where Sancho shoots and kills Clara, while Clara also wounds Sancho, and Sancho finally kills himself.
At the end, David narrates a letter written to his wife from Miami, where he is spending Christmas with some friends, apologizing for the way everything turned out. While at the orphanage, a pregnant Elena goes into labor and on the way to the hospital, she and Victor get stuck in heavy traffic. Victor is reminded of the circumstances of his own birth, and tells his unborn child that the fears of the Spanish have passed.
- Javier Bardem as David
- Francesca Neri as Elena
- Liberto Rabal as Victor Plaza
- Angela Molina as Clara
- Jose Sancho as Sancho
- Penélope Cruz as Isabel Plaza Caballero
- Pilar Bardem as Doña Centro
- Álex Angulo as Conductor del autobús
- Mariola Fuentes as Clementina
- Yael Be as Chica
- Josep Molins as Josep
- Maria Rosenfeldt as Niña
Almodóvar’s twelfth film premiered on October 12, 1997. Produced by El Deseo, CiBy 2000, and France 3 Cinéma, Live Flesh enjoyed mostly positive reviews in Spain even by critics who had previously dismissed Almodóvar’s work criticizing the plot structure of his films. José Arrroyo in Sight and Sound praised the film’s "emotional pitch: raw, fearful, passionate," its brilliant cinematic qualities and the high standard of acting by the five leads. In Neon magazine, Martin Aston concluded that "sexy movies are rarely this thrilling, thrillers never this sexy- and the two seldom combine so movingly."