The Human Voice is a short drama freely based on the french monodrama, The Human Voice (Spanish: La Voz Humana) written by Jean Cocteau. The film stars super-talented Tilda Swinton who is the solo performer in the film. Running for approximately 30 minutes, this experimental drama explores the depression fueled by thoughts of separating from her beloved lover. The film is written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar.
‘The Human Voice’ Summary
An aging ad-film actress waits for her lover to arrive and receive his suitcase. Her lover is parting ways ending their 4-year relations, abandoning the woman and the only dog he has. The woman buys a sharp ax from a hardware store, therefore, creating suspense around her vile motives. It’s been 3 days but her lover hasn’t arrived.
Impatiently, she makes a call and expresses her both internal obsession with her love and also how the abandonment has created a dark, depressive hollow inside her. She is suffering from an acute sense of anger and mental imbalance. She expresses her uncontrollable desire to kill her love by sticking a knife in his chest.
In the end, her lover decides not to come and the woman burns the place seeking peace and liberation.
Major Spoilers Ahead
‘The Human Voice’ Explained
Much like Jean Cocteau’s play La Voz Humana, the human voice of the woman’s love is never heard in the entire film. Maybe, the mentally depressed woman created the whole conversation inside her head. She was both the listener and communicator expressing her love, anger, and internal desire.
In one of the bird view shots, it can be witnessed that the woman’s house was divided into blocks and was living without a roof. Her apartment looked like a movie set and in the end, when she burns down the place, we find her sitting inside a large warehouse where this set was established. Due to this minute significance, it can be perceived that her whole act was actually an “act” that she directed to liberate herself from the attachment of her abandoning lover.
Instances where she brutally attacked the bed with an ax ripping off her lover’s expensive suit piece are also evidence of the fact that she realized that actually killing a person is a sin but burning down his memories or murdering the past isn’t. Fire has always been used as a symbol of liberation. In Hindu Mythology, burning bodies is depicted as an act of letting go of the immortal soul from the body.
The Human Voice is an extremely titillating short monodrama. A long but riveting monologue delivers a stream of mixed emotions which is quite brilliant. It is interesting that at one moment, we hate the woman and at the very next moment we feel empathetic for her. The drama is, therefore, exceptionally inviting.
The film ends before dullness peeps in and thus it is hard to judge it narratively. It plays out like an incident rather than a story but does justice to its genre. It wraps a one-woman act brilliantly performed by Tilda Swinton.
The Human Voice is a short monodrama film directed by Pedro Almodóvar. The film is streaming on HBO Max.
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