Bad EducationMarch 19, 2004
An examination on the effect of Franco-era religious schooling and sexual abuse on the lives of two longtime friends.
Release Year: 2004
Rating: 7.4/10 (27,179 voted)
Critic's Score: 81/100
Stars: Gael García Bernal, Fele Martínez, Javier Cámara
In the early 60s, two boys – Ignacio and Enrique – discover love, movies and fear in a Christian school. Father Manolo, the school principal and Literature teacher, both witnesses and takes part in these discoveries. The three characters come against one another twice again, in the late 70s and in 1980. These meetings are set to change the life and death of some of them.
Gael García Bernal
Daniel Giménez Cacho
Sr. Manuel Berenguer
(as Ignacio Pérez)
Raúl García Forneiro
(as Raúl Gª Forneiro)
Release Date: 19 March 2004
Filming Locations: Escuela Pías de Alella, Alella, Barcelona, Cataluña, Spain
Box Office Details
Opening Weekend: €1,199,793
(21 March 2004)
(27 April 2008)
Did You Know?
At the beginning of the movie, there's a poster of a fictitious film called "La abuela fantasma" on the wall in Enrique's studio (it's clearly visible when Ignacio leaves after giving his screenplay to Enrique). "La abuela fantasma" was the original title of another Pedro Almodóvar film,
When Burenguer declines Ignacio's story over the phone, he says that he wouldn't be accepting it for "Short Stories of the 80's". According to his story, it would have had to been at least 1977, three years before the '80s let alone before a compilation of stories from the '80s would be released.
I think I've just lost my faith at this moment, so I no longer believe in God or hell. As I don't believe in hell, I'm not afraid. And without fear I'm capable of anything.
A movie lover's dream come true.
This is a difficult film to write about. For one thing, to describe the
plot would be to give away the twists and thus spoil its surprises; but
for another, it's impossible to take a great work of art and put it
into words. That said, here goes:
Truth be told, it was the promise of Gael Garcia Bernal (whom I've
loved since "Y Tu Mama Tambien") in drag that piqued my interest in
seeing "Bad Education." The only other Almodovar movie I'd seen before
this was "Talk to Her," which I was on the fence about, but if Gael
Garcia Bernal was involved, I was happy to give Almodovar another shot.
(Interestingly, "Bad Education" has given me a new appreciation of
"Talk to Her." The two films share a lot of themes — false identity
and self-creation, the willful self-deception and fantasy of falling in
love, the spiritualization of aesthetic beauty — not to mention a
hypnotic use of music, an indifferent attitude towards women, and a few
actors I recognized.)
Almodovar's genius in both "Bad Education" and "Talk to Her" is his
ability to set the scene, stringing the audience along, lulling it into
a sense of comprehension and security, and then suddenly turning the
tables with a twist of such dizzying magnitude that the mind, reeling,
forced to give up on trying to understand, must just relax and allow
the movie to take over — miraculously, all without leaving the
audience feeling manipulated. In "Bad Education," he takes this device
to breathless, upper-atmospherical levels, for with each twist, the
film takes on a new genre.
It begins as a tender coming-of-age story, interspersed with
boarding-school flashbacks reminiscent of such French fare as Louis
Malle's "Au revoir, les enfants" and François Truffaut's "L'argent de
pôche," although I sensed a lot of Fellini in the mod outfits, feathery
hairstyles, and picturesque bicycle-strewn streets. Probably the most
romantic segment of the film, it alludes even to "Breakfast at
Tiffany's" (Henry Mancini's "Moon River" hasn't been employed so
creatively since last year's "Angels in America"). Indeed, the
performances are so endearing, the cinematography so warm and luminous,
that this segment of "Bad Education" could easily exist as its own
self-contained movie. I was fully prepared to embrace it and love it as
a sincere period romance.
But without warning, the film turns itself upside down and becomes an
exhilarating meta-commentary in the vein of Charlie Kaufman's
"Adaptation" (complete with crocodiles). Romance turns to farce and
tragedy to comedy as the self-consciously cinematic style gives way to
the silliness of a movie-within-a-movie.
Unlike "Adaptation," though, "Bad Education" goes on, and in this way
it retains its heart and soul. Further twists are introduced, and the
movie metamorphoses into a mystery, a thriller, a dark rain-soaked noir
— by the end, I felt as though I had just lived through a hundred
years of cinema history, all condensed into less than two rich,
So what holds it all together? The answer is Gael Garcia Bernal. He is
a true movie star — divinely beautiful, dazzlingly charismatic, with
that all-important aura of mystery — and though he virtually plays
five characters as his character transforms along with the film, his
strikingly calm blue-green eyes and sensual mouth provide a steady
center for the madness around him. Despite the rumors of his abusive
treatment on set at the hands of Almodovar, Garcia Bernal has a dignity
(without which "Bad Education" would collapse under the weight of its
own intelligence) that no amount of makeup, wigs, dresses, induced
anorexia, or fake Spanish lisping can mask.
"Bad Education" was one of the most intense movie-going experiences I've
ever had, and if its future doesn't hold critical acclaim and
recognition as a classic, then there's no justice in the world.