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All About ‘Todo Sobre Mi Madre’

Which figure in film history was a true revolutionary who boldly went where no one had gone before? ¡Pedro Almodóvar, of course! After all, it was this film director who started a genuine sociocultural movement, the Movida Madrileña, after the death of Franco. Anything and everything was possible – and it was in that hedonistic Zeitgeist that Almodóvar became the voice of a generation. The Eighties commenced. Burning down the house, that’s what had to be done first. And then, of course, that house had to be tastefully redecorated.

This column was originally published in WOTH Wonderful Things – the Dutch interior design magazine with an international scope.

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But let’s face it, I’m not here to write about that first heady period in Almodóvar’s career. No, this column is about outstanding film interiors and for those we really should look at his later work. Out of curiosity, I recently watched Todo Sobre Mi Madre again, a film I first saw back in 1999. Now, I don’t know how you look back on that year, but to me it feels like a time in design history that falls between two stools. Our minds were already occupied with Y2K and all the futuristic design that was supposed to come after it. Yet, the dominant taste of the Eighties also still lingered.

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That same sentiment of both gradual transitions and harsh contrasts is the theme of the story of Todo Sobre Mi Madre: mother and son, organ donor and recipient, nun and whore…the list goes on and on. I’m not even going to try to give you a brief summary of the plot. With Almodóvar, that would simply be impossible. Instead, my advice is that you simply undergo all the story’s twists and turns. And when you do, be sure to take an extra good look at the striking interiors.

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One of the film’s first scenes features the turquoise kitchen of the film’s main character Manuela – it has the exact same color as the uniform she wears as an organ transplant coordinator. Color plays an important part throughout Todo Sobre Mi Madre. Red in particular is a recurring theme, as is royal blue. The true interior design lessons, however, don’t present themselves until further along the film.

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First, cheap and expensive always go hand in hand. Just look at the apartment of transgender Agrado, where a plastic table cover with a bold tomato pattern goes surprisingly well with two high-end vintage lamps directly above it. Lesson number two: the same two lamps just happen to be bright red and green, a stark reminder that contrasting colors work together without exception.

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Three: I cannot overstate how much better straight lines look against a background of round shapes. You simply cannot miss the Rietveld ZigZag chair in the elegant apartment in the famous Cases Ramos. And then finally…everything (and I do mean everything) about Todo Sobre Mi Madre comes together in that one shot of the Battló Bench. Do you sit on it alone or together? Is it new or is it old? No matter the answer, this silly wooden bench says more about Barcelona than the Barcelona chair itself. The best interiors and pieces of furniture are full of contradictions – much like Almodóvar himself.

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