Pedro Almodovar’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! is a colorful, pulpy, twisted love story, a modern take on Beauty and the Beast.
The main premise is a young man, just released from a mental institution, finds and takes his beloved, a former porno actress trying to go straight, hostage so she may fall in love with him. There are many effectively chilly moments of pursuit and capture between these two.
More complicated, though, and more difficult to understand are the love that grows between them. I’m not entirely sold on her Stockholm Syndrome 180-turn on him, falling in love with her captor. As much pain and violence he endures on her behalf, his courtship is hardly gentlemanly. Perhaps this is part of the greater underlying message, that her life has been so devoid of traditional romance that she’ll take what she can get. Whatever the reasons (love is hardly a rational impulse in the first place), Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! is not an easy film to understand.
It is, however, an incredibly easy film to watch. It is so beautifully shot, in lurid eye-popping technicolor at picturesque angles and scene composition. You could watch it muted and still be engrossed in the action. The story is also layered with such complexity; it relies on the audience to pay attention to fully track the action that transpires.
While it asks the audience to take some leaps of faith, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! is a satisfying pulp satire on contemporary romance.