Bad Education by Pedro Almodovar is such a fine masterpiece, it needs a few fully dedicated sessions to fully absorb and appreciate the various textures, layers and sheer efforts that have gone into it.
But first the important disclaimer. This movie is suitable for mature audiences and strictly not for those uncomfortable with LGTBQ or queasy discussing issues related to the Catholic church etc.
I had first seen Bad education many years after its release, when I got the DVD from the streets of Bangkok. What I loved about the DVD sellers (at least those days) was that you got the complete set not just the film but everything from the subtitles to deleted scenes to directors commentary.
So I was blown by the movie, and then when I saw this again I watched it with the director’s commentary and noticed a lot more of what was going on and why the director had chosen to present things in the way.
Bad Education is simply the story of two school friends studying at a Catholic school while boarding there, and discover feelings for each other. One of them is the prized pupil of the church priest and he gets jealous of this friendship between the two students and asks the other boy to move back to his parents.
Years later they get back together, and the stories start unraveling. The prized pupil’s friend has successfully become a film director. His school friend/ lover walks into his office and gives him a script that he’d been working on and thats the story of their school experience and how the priest had exploited the situation and what happened next.
This is the beginning of the film and it slowly starts revealing the story and that’s where the mastery comes in.
the narration unfolds at different levels. The director is already making the film casting his friend who gave him the script, and that helps understand part of what happened. Then later, the true story is revealed. Across the film various different actors play the individual characters and this helps delineate the narration across various perspectives and this is brilliantly done.
In the movie Almodovar plays homage to various genres, inspirations including a brief part where Asha Bhonsle’s song is played out. There is one of his favorite movie stars who comes on screen and who inspired a lot of performers drag artistes to do the show based on her songs.
the lead actor in the movie transforms himself from a very masculine virile young kid to a struggler and finally as a drag artiste having slimmed down. (A similar transformation done by Atul Kulkarni for the movie Natyarang).
The director’s commentary helps understand the fine layers and the inspirations and he is honest, and it is not intellectualising this most of the time. There is actually a lot of emphasis on symmetry in the movie and you get surprised about how balanced and outstanding the narration is.
You need to take out time for this movie, and watch this over several sessions, and I’d recommend you get the directors commentary. But mostly it is to have that one or few friends with whom you need to discuss this after.
You will needs them, trust me.