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Pain and Glory 2019

Pain and Glory | Pain & Glory | Dolor y gloria | Douleur et gloire

Pain and Glory-Dolor y gloria-Douleur et gloire

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An aging director reminisces about his life and past loves.

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About the Pain and Glory 💬

PAIN AND GLORY tells of a series of reencounters experienced by Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas), a film director in his physical decline. Some of them in the flesh, others remembered: his childhood in the 60s, when he emigrated with his parents to a village in Valencia in search of prosperity, the first desire, his first adult love in the Madrid of the 80s, the pain of the breakup of that love while it was still alive and intense, writing as the only therapy to forget the unforgettable, the early discovery of cinema, and the void, the infinite void created by the incapacity to keep on making films.

PAIN AND GLORY talks about creation, about the difficulty of separating it from one's own life and about the passions that give it meaning and hope. In recovering his past, Salvador finds the urgent need to recount it, and in that need he also finds his salvation.


Quite unintentionally, PAIN AND GLORY is the third part of a spontaneously created trilogy that has taken thirty-two years to complete. The first two parts are Law of Desire (1987) and Bad Education (2004). In the three films, the protagonists are male characters who are film directors, and desire and cinematic fiction are the pillars of the story, but the way in which fiction is glimpsed alongside reality differs in each one of them. Fiction and life are two sides of the same coin, and life always includes pain and desire.

PAIN AND GLORY reveals, among other themes, two love stories that have left their mark on the protagonist, two stories determined by time and fate and which are resolved in the fiction.

When the first story happens, the protagonist is unaware of living it. He only remembers it fifty years later. It's the story of the first time he felt the impulse of desire. Salvador was nine years old and the impression was so intense that he fell to the floor in a faint, as if struck by lightning.

The second is a story that takes place at the height of the 80s, when the country was celebrating the explosion of freedom that came with democracy. This love story which Salvador writes so as to forget about it ends up transformed into a monologue, performed by Alberto Crespo and also credited to him because Salvador doesn't want anyone to recognize him. He cedes his authorship to the actor, giving in to his insistent demand.

The monologue is titled The Addiction and Alberto Crespo performs it in front of a bare, white screen as the only décor.

The white screen represents everything: the cinema which Salvador saw in his childhood, his adult memory, the journeys with Federico to escape from Madrid and from heroin, how he was formed as a writer and as a filmmaker. The screen as witness, company and destiny.


The story of The Addiction alludes to the passion lived by Salvador Mallo and Federico Delgado when they were young in the '80s. It also explains the reason they separated, even though they still loved each other. The theater, words performed in front of a bare screen, acts as a messenger between the former lovers, thirty years later.

Federico comes back to Madrid after more than thirty years. He goes into a theater to pass the time and, astonished, witnesses the dramatization of his story with Salvador. Their names might have been changed, but the pain, the happiness and the reasons for which he left Salvador are the substance of the show. Recounted as a monologue by Alberto Crespo, Federico recognizes Salvador in every word even though Crespo is credited for the work. The monologue makes it possible for the two former lovers to meet again. The actors involved in this block of sequences, Asier Etxeandia (Alberto), Leonardo Sbaraglia (Federico) and Salvador (Antonio Banderas), are dazzling. I think it is one of the blocks that moves me most.


If you write about a director (and your work consists of directing films), it's impossible not to think of yourself and not take your experiences as a reference. It was the most practical. My house is the house where Antonio Banderas' character lives, the furniture in the kitchen - and the rest of the furnishings - are mine or have been reproduced for the occasion and the paintings that hang on its walls. We tried to make Antonio's image, especially his hair, look like mine. The shoes and many of the clothes also belong to me, and the colors of his clothing. When there was some corner to fill on the set, the art director sent his assistant to my house to get some of the many objects with which I live. This is the most autobiographical aspect of the film and it turned out to be very comfortable for the crew. As a matter of fact, José Luis Alcaine came to the house several times to see the light at different hours of the day, so as to reproduce it later in the studio. I remember that during rehearsals I said to Antonio: If you think that in any sequence it'll help if you imitate me, you can do it. Antonio said no, that it wasn't necessary. And he was right, his character wasn't me, but it was inside me.


Over the course of the story we see the veteran director Salvador Mallo in three periods of his life: his childhood in the 1960s; his adulthood in the 80s in Madrid (Salvador is a character shaped in the Madrid explosion of that decade); and we also see Salvador at present, isolated, depressed, victim of various maladies, cut off from the world and from the cinema. I identify with all those eras, I know the places and the feelings the character goes through, but I never lived in a cave and I never fell in love with a laborer when I was a child, for example, although both things could have happened.

At first, I took myself as a reference but, once you start writing, fiction lays down its rules and makes itself independent of the origin, as has always happened to me when I've dealt with other themes with real references. Reality provides me with the first lines, but I have to invent the rest. At least that's the game I like to play.


Years before she died, my mother had already explained to my older sister how she wanted to be laid out. My sister listened to her with the same naturalness with which my mother talked about herself when she would be dead. I have a childish, immature relationship with mortality. I have always admired the naturalness which my mother instilled into my sister with regard to death and its rites, as befits a good Manchegan woman. In my land, there is a very rich culture of death which manages to humanize the event without it losing spirituality. Unfortunately, I haven't inherited that culture, although my cinema is impregnated with it.

Every time I wrote and rewrote the sequence where the mother, Jacinta, says to Salvador ''If they tie my feet to bury me (they usually do this so that the feet don't fall to each side), you untie them and say I asked you to. The place where I'm going, I want to go in very quickly'', I'd end up crying in front of the computer.

I called Julieta Serrano to play Jacinta at 84. I'd wanted to work with her for some time and to do it again produced in me the same pleasure as on our shoots in the 80s.

Old age has turned Jacinta into a slightly bitter, dry woman. She doesn't make life easy for her son, Salvador.

When I was working on the fourth part of the script, on the sequence in which Salvador installs his assistant Mercedes in the bedroom which his mother had occupied, it is Jacinta who really installs herself in that part of the script and, with her, the idea of death. Death was already stalking the mother, but it was also prowling around in Salvador's life when the narrative is contemporary. Salvador sits in the armchair where his mother sat four years before and asks Mercedes for a tin box in which she kept many bits and pieces.

Thinking of my own mother at that age I'd shown her lovable, funny version in The Flower of My Secret, but for this occasion I felt that it would be more interesting if things weren't easy between mother and son, if the last conversations were bitter. Jacinta had become a hard, dour woman with the years and she talks to her son with that cruelty without apparent wickedness with which the elderly and the sick treat those closest to them.

From the first moment, Julieta Serrano's performance was so precise and genuine that it dazzled me and I wanted her contribution to be longer. So during shooting I wrote, really I improvised, several new sequences for her, which were inspired by the pleasure of seeing them performed by the actress, but which in some way were hidden in some unconscious part of myself, sequences that became essential for the film and which left me as perplexed as Salvador was. I'm talking about the sequences in the hallway and the one on the terrace.

After writing them and filming them, they seem so real to me that I wonder if between my mother and me there was something similar to that dark underlying tension. I have the impression that those improvised sequences say more about me, about my relationship with my parents and with La Mancha and the places where I lived in my childhood and adolescence than everything I've said about them to date.


While they wait in a radiologist's office, Mercedes shows Salvador an invitation to an exhibition of anonymous popular art. The invitation shows a watercolor with a boy sitting in an interior, whitewashed patio, surrounded by flowerpots, reading a book, on a floor of hydraulic tiles with a Matisse-style design. Salvador is struck by the image, he is about to talk to Mercedes about it, but at that moment the nurse calls him, it is his turn to have a CAT scan of his neck.

Salvador slides into the CAT machine as if he were entering a spaceship. Once he has got over the initial claustrophobia, the enormous machine, shaped like a gigantic metal doughnut, acts as a time tunnel. Alone with his memories, Salvador evokes the moment in which the watercolor he has just seen was done. He was that child, he was nine and living with his family in a cave in Paterna, a village on the Levante where he had emigrated with his family in search of prosperity. It was the 60s, Spaniards were moving inside and outside the country. It was Sunday, his mother had gone to sew at the house of the village's pious woman, his father was in the bar, and he had stayed in the cave accompanied by a young laborer who was finishing off a job on the kitchen sink.

Salvador is sitting under the skylight, the only ventilation in the cave, bathed by the light shining directly on him. It forms a very beautiful, very impressionist image, along with the flowerpots, the whitewashed walls and the hydraulic floor. The young laborer - fond of painting - looks at him for a moment, fascinated by the scene, and decides to draw it on a empty cement bag and take the sketch home to finish coloring it.

This scene comes to Salvador's mind in the midst of the CAT radiations like a revelation. The scene is totally pure, the two characters act with total innocence, but from the distance of those fifty years which have led him to be trapped in the CAT machine, Salvador discovers his first sexual impulse towards another man, the young laborer. The moment, breathtaking and magical, is crystallized in that watercolor, which the laborer would send to him months later when neither of them was in Paterna. Salvador was in a seminary so he could study for his high school diploma and his mother never told him about the arrival of the watercolor with a tender note written on the back by the young laborer. She was the only one who noticed that a sentiment was arising between those two boys and it had to be aborted before it took shape and overwhelmed them. So she intercepted the communication between them. The watercolor ended up in the flea market in Barcelona and a collector of anonymous works bought it and exhibited it in a little gallery in Madrid where Salvador could buy it fifty years later.

Salvador feels an impulse again as powerful as that past desire; on this occasion, it is the desire to narrate the origin and the circumstances in which the watercolor was painted, and his life in the cave, how he taught the laborer to read and write, under the vigilant eye of his mother, and in return the young man painted the cave for her and fixed the sink. A time of scarcity for the family that he always remembers as bathed by the light from the skylight that connected the cave with the exotic exterior.

Salvador races to the computer when he gets home and again feels the excitement of delving into writing, ready to live the only adventure that over the entire course of his life has given him illusion and meaning.


Reducing it to a list of cities and ailments, in relation to the chapters titled Geography and Anatomy, respectively, seemed to me the most concise way of establishing the poor education received by Salvador as a boy and his discovery of geography, through promotional journeys as director, and of anatomy though pain and illnesses.

In just three pages I summarized the protagonist's poor academic childhood and established his profession as a film director who had been successful, otherwise, he wouldn't have traveled to promote his work. At the same time, in those same pages, I informed of his many health problems, dedicating the minimum time to the matter, without the need to go back over the subject. Pain is very passive, not very cinematic and boring to recount, but I had to mention it in some way to situate the protagonist and explain his eventual self-destructive reaction, his melancholy and misanthropy.

The narrative force of these two sequences (Geography and Anatomy) is supported by the dynamic, theatrical music composed by Alberto Iglesias and by Juan Gatti's animated pieces that are both educational and original.

In addition to these pieces, I allowed myself to stress two paragraphs from two books which Salvador is reading: The Book of Disquiet, by Pessoa, and Nothing Grows by Moonlight, by Torborg Nedreaas, to show what is seething in his mind. It isn't as lucid a recourse as that of the chapters of Geography and Anatomy, but I hope it helps to understand the protagonist's depressive mental state.

Pain and Glory Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Pedro Almodóvar

Writing Credits

Pedro Almodóvar


Antonio Banderas

Asier Flores

Penélope Cruz

Julieta Serrano

Raúl Arévalo

Asier Etxeandia

Leonardo Sbaraglia

Nora Navas

César Vicente

Alba Gómez

Susi Sánchez


Cecilia Roth

Music by

Alberto Iglesias

Cinematography by

José Luis Alcaine

Categories: Oscars, Oscar Academy Award Nominee, Golden Globes, Golden Globe Nominee, EEBAFTAs, BAFTA Award Nominee, EFA, European Film Award Winner

Genre: Drama

Countries: Spain, France

Pain and Glory Official Trailer

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