Aphrodite, Venus, Penelope.
(Los abrazos rotos, Pedro Almodovar, 2009)
For more than twenty years Pedro Almodovar is shooting beautiful, Venusian movies (in the past with a clearly more Uranian and hysterical tone than today), which are always an especially sensuous delight due to his obvious enthusiasm for the striking composition of colours and shapes.
Three years ago the Spanish director in his very own luscious style modernized the myth of Demeter and Persephone in a wonderful film (“Volver”) about mothers and daughters losing and finding each other in the wake of sexual assaults by men.
His recent work, “Broken Embraces”, seems to have been inspired by the mythical love triangle between Aphrodite, her unloved husband Hephaestus and her passionate lover Ares: Years before the time which the film starts with, a beautiful young woman gave in to the wooing of a rich, old man. She lived with him, loved him not, eventually cheated on him with a younger man, whom she fell in love with and thus provoked a desire for revenge in the cheated.
Yet for one of Almodovars multifaceted and peopled love-stories this is not enough. Flashbacks and late revelations gradually unravel an intricate web of consequential affairs, reluctant gratitude, difficult father-son-relations and relationships overshadowed by long-held secrets.
Melodrama and observance
All that melodrama, desire and jealousy, all that love and loss and grief although rich on sentiment never gets staged with corny sentimentality and never seems shallow in the face of kitsch. The tenderly amused and observant distance which Almodovar keeps towards his characters – and which in “Broken Embraces” is emphasized more than ever because of a multiple film-in-film-plot, adding a Uranian and Neptunian tone to the movie – regardless of sympathy or identification with them enables the audience to appreciate even guilt and gratitude, forgiveness and envy as a comprehensive cost of love and passion.
Yet the most beautiful thing is how, in spite of all the tragedy, lightness and vitality foster hope. It’s like someone saying “hey, that’s life – don’t worry, it will always go on”. In that sense “Broken Embraces” is an encounter between the forces of Taurus and Scorpio.
A director and his characters
Gender relations, obsessions and love-stories have been the main topics of every Almodovar-movie so far. With regard to one of the two possible horoscopes  for him this not only matches his sun in Libra but also the prominent strong square aspect between Venus and Mars in the deeply dramatic signs of Scorpio and Leo. The two planets are furthermore accompanied by Moon in conjunction with Venus and Pluto standing next to Mars.
In “Broken Embraces” both gender archetypes from this horoscope
are split in two: The main male character Mateo/Harry, who is a strong and
confident man of action, a creative director and a generous and protective
lover, not losing his lust for life even after the tragic loss of his love
and his eye-sight, presents a wonderful embodiment of Mars in Leo. His Plutonian
shadow is the rich and powerful, obsessive and even violent Ernesto, who
is driven by his need for power and control and to whom Lena, the Venus-character
in the film, played by gorgeous Penelope Cruz, is bound by feelings alternating
between self-interest, gratitude and calculation. What brings us to the Scorpio-aspect
of said Venus: She is dazzling, sexy and manipulative, an iron-willed actress,
but also passionate and full of devotion and of course a femme fatale as
dangerous as endangered by her beauty and vulnerability. It is hers to experience
the greatest fear of the Plutonian darkness – which is only too familiar
to her – and finally to fall victim to the unleashed violence and the
schemes of others.
After all the female archetype in this movie as in Almodovars horoscope also has (at least) two faces: there is still Judit, Mateo’s/Harry’s agent and caring friend, mothering him just the same as her nearly adult son and taking care of his daily needs almost as a wife – or mother. Her possessive love, displaying a passionate and occasionally excessive protection instinct, her desire to be needed and her manipulative concealment of important facts make her a very suitable incarnation of a Scorpio-Moon.
Thus “Broken Embraces” not only offers the sensuous as well as intellectual pleasure of a luxuriously photographed and excellently observed melodrama, but also a fine example of how a director’s horoscope-constellations (and that means his internal personas) might be incorporated in his film characters…
Vesna Ivkovic studied literature and linguistics, sociology, philosophy and history and as well took a profound interest in psychology, mythology and different belief systems. Along the way she also explored various paths of body awareness such as the martial arts of Kung Fu, Dance, Yoga, Qi Gong and several other methods of body work and motion arts. In 1993 she discovered astrology as an instrument of knowledge and graduated in 2004 in Markus Jehle's and Petra Niehaus' master class at the Astrology Center Berlin. You can find out more about the author and her work on her own website www.astrosemiotics.de