Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown) is a famous Spanish film from 1988 starring a strikingly young Antonio Banderas as Carlos, Carmen Maura as Pepa, Julieta Serrano as Lucía and Rossy de Palma as Marisa. The film was ranked No. 78 in Empire magazine’s 100 best films of world cinema in 2010 and was written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar. This was the film that really brought Almodóvar to widespread international attention. Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios was nominated for the 1988 Academy Award for Best Foreign-language film, and won five Goya Awards including Best Film and Best Leading Actress for Carmen Maura. Films by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar consistently present us with the strangest of characters and the most aberrant social behaviours and Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios doesn’t dissapoint in this respect.
Proceedings begin with pregnant voice-over actress Pepa, distraught over her recent breakup with her lover Iván, preparing to overdose on sleeping pills. She blends the sleeping pills into a gazpacho soup and is all ready to take her own life when she is diverted by her best friend Candela. Candela, played by Spanish actress María Barranco, is on the run as her boyfriend is a Shi’Ite terrorist. Like many of the other characters, Candela is looking for a place to stay and Carmen has a “room to let” advert out in the newspaper.
Later, Iván’s son (with previous lover Lucía), played by Antonio Banderas, also comes to the apartment with his snobby fiance Marissa. Carlos and Pepa quickly realise each other’s relationship to Iván and Candela unsuccessfully attempts to kill herself by jumping off the balcony. Meanwhile, Marisa decides to drink some gazpacho she finds in the fridge; the same gazpacho that was previously spiked with sleeping pills. As she blissfully snoozes away, her husband inaugurates an affair with Candela.
I don’t want to give away too much more of the plot, but it is safe to say that things twist and turn more than a rattlesnake on a roundabout. Pedro Almodóvar is one of those directors who you either love or hate. Even if his films are not your cup of tea, anyone even mildly interested in Spanish cinema is duty bound to explore a few of his films. Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios is a good starting point. Almodóvar is arguably the most successful and internationally well known Spanish filmmaker of his generation. His films are marked by complex narratives, irreverent humor, bold colors and the dominant themes of desire, passion, and family. Women on the verge of a nervous breakdown was adapted into a musical by Jeffrey Lane and David Yazbek and opened on Broadway on 4th November 2010, at the Belasco Theatre.
Watch trailer for Antonio Banderas Spanish language movie “Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios”: