From Pain to Glory to Pain: What It Takes to be an Artist

© Almodóvar, Pain and Glory, 2019

The International Film Festival 2019 has kickstarted last week with opening film, Pain and Glory (2019), directed by Pedro Almodóvar. Pain comes in many forms, both physical and mental, each affects us in different ways. It can be a hindrance to our daily life and a burden to people around us. In Salvador Mallo’s (Salva) case, it is his whole existence. He succeeds in his filming career at a young age. As his beard thickens and greys, a degenerative disease haunts him. Multiple joints and bones calcify, leaving his body stiff and fragile. Surgeries and medications, these regular medical procedures have made Salva feels unfit for any work. The downhill of his body condition leaves him in a creativity slump, together with the passing of his mother, Salva suffers from depression.


© Almodóvar

A critical event worsens the situation. Salva’s first renowned movie, Sabor (Flavour), was declared classic and screened again in cinemas. Salva decided to invite the protagonist in the movie, Alberto Crespo to go and watch it again together. The two have not spoken for 30 years due to a conflict. During their reunion, Alberto could not resist his heroin addiction and uses the drug in front of Salva, Salva asked to try. The drug kicks in and Salva remembers scenes from his childhood, moments with his mother in her last days, and the naked sight of his childhood home’s renovation worker, which triggered his homosexuality. These memories became his inspirations. He starts to write a monologue called Addiction, which narrates his own experience helping his past lover, Marcelo, out of heroin addiction. Later he starts another script called The First Desire, which is about his homosexuality. The film ended with a meta-cinematic scene where Salva is directing his own script.


Starring Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia and Penélope Cruz, Pain and Glory present to us only a small glimpse into what it takes to be an artist. Art is often said to be self-expression, or an aesthetic pursue. However, Salva’s creativity can be seen as a self-exposure. Creating art from his own experiences, Salva exposes himself emotionally, where he finds relieve. He writes to let go of burdens and stress, hence, when he wasn’t able to write, he went into depression. It takes tremendous courage for an artist to make themselves vulnerable in front of the world, in the form of  “art”. Pain and glory, these two words, or state of mind are contradicting yet interlocked. Do we have to live through pain to reach glory, or do glory bring us the pain?

By Sin Wai Ying Rachel


Watch the trailer:

Categories: Movies and TV Shows

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