“I could have made a film about school life at any time because it is an excellent subject, but depending on whether I made it 15, 10 years ago or now, the genre would have changed. If I’d made the film 20 years ago it would have been in revenge, so it would have been far more Grand Guignol.” AlmodÃ³var interrupts the translator to speak in English – as if he’s butting in on himself. “Now I’m not so furious about that thing, you know,” he says. “Twenty years ago I would have been far more anti-clerical.”
That “thing” is sexual abuse. AlmodÃ³var himself wasn’t abused at school, but he says everybody knew exactly who was and by whom. In Bad Education, Enrique’s first love, a boy called Ignacio, is abused by a priest at the Catholic school in 1960s Spain. As so often, AlmodÃ³var is ambivalent about the abuse – yes, the priest does a terrible wrong, but he is doing it because he is a victim of the law of desire, even a victim of love.
As with so many of his movies, Bad Education works against all reason. Somehow he manages to blend sentimentality with toughness, B-movie melodrama with naturalistic performances, to produce a convincing whole. There are bits of Fassbinder and BuÃ±uel and Douglas Sirk, but in the end, as always, it’s AlmodÃ³var.
I ask him if he fell in love as intensely at school as Enrique does in Bad Education. He says that the film is not straight autobiography. Yes, this was the period in his life when he discovered the powers of love and fear, the joy of cinema, his own lack of faith, but Enrique is not simply AlmodÃ³var. “I don’t direct films the same way as him, I don’t get involved with my actors, I don’t get so involved with the films. But to answer your question, I do remember these incredibly intense feelings for another boy. It could have been love. I don’t know because at that moment you don’t know the name for it.”
One of the worst abusers at AlmodÃ³var’s school was so shamed that he had to leave, but even then he was simply transferred to a school with older boys. “Although I wasn’t actually abused, I do remember feeling extreme physical fear of the priests. One of the things we had to do was kiss the priest’s hand whenever we met him, and I hated this because I found it revolting and I was also quite rebellious. So I refused to do it, and would run in the opposite direction to avoid coming face to face with a priest. But there was one priest who would seek me out and he’d stand in front of me, stick his hand out and force me to kiss it. And then after I’d kissed it he’d grab my hands and hold them tightly until I ran away. So even this I do remember as being somewhat abusive. But the notorious abuser, the priest who had to leave, had a harem of about 20 boys.”
AlmodÃ³var kept a diary during filming.