I wrote this and published it on this blog under the title Love is never a joke in October 24, 2011. Tonight I watched the movie again, and I was so moved by it that I thought I would write another post on it, but when I searched and found the earlier post, I realized I couldn’t improve on what I had said in 2011. Here it is:
About midway through Law of Desire, the movie by Pedro Almodovar (1987), Antonio, played by a young and beautiful Antonio Banderas, asks Pablo, a movie director who is very self-centered and seems always to be doing lines of coke, “Who is the boy in the letter, that Juan?”
It is a moment in the movie when Antonio, who says, “I’m what I should be,” is trying to manipulate himself into Pablo’s bed.
Antonio continues. “He seems very much in love with you.”
Pablo answers. “He isn’t.” Then he says, “That letter is a joke.”
Antonio has been stalking Pablo since the beginning of the movie. He says, “Love is never a joke.”
In a culture in which Pablo finds it impossible to treat seriously what Antonio is offering and in which the love between two men is often treated exactly as a joke, the work of this movie is to show how very serious love between two men can be. This movie moves toward tragedy, and its method is operatic.
Eventually Antonio kills Juan, the boy that Pablo has been toying with, throws him off a cliff in the moonlight, and then, after an hour with Pablo, Antonio kills himself—sacrifices himself to Pablo’s learning what love means.
The concluding image of the story is of Pablo, kneeling on the floor in front of a May Cross, cradling the naked body of Antonio and sobbing.
That’s it. When love between two men has been treated as a joke, this movie shows what it looks like when one man willingly dies for the love of a man. It’s about time, love, revenge, memory, the law, desire. The Law of Desire.