Yolanda sings in a seedy nightclub. When her boyfriend dies of an overdose, she fears the police and seeks refuge in a convent that saves women from the streets. These off-beat nuns include a heroin using abbess who loves Yolanda, one who writes romance novels under a pseudonym, another raising a tiger in the convent yard, and one who designs fabulous fashions and is in love with the local priest. They plan an evening extravaganza starring Yolanda to celebrate the abbess’s birthday and to convince their wealthy patron not to abandon them.
Dark Habits (Spanish: Entre tinieblas) is a 1983 Spanish black comedy film written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar and starring Julieta Serrano, Marisa Paredes and Chus Lampreave. The plot follows a cabaret singer who finds refuge in a convent of eccentric nuns. The film is an exploration of the anachronistic situation of institutionalized religion in contemporary Spanish society, portraying spiritual desolation and moral bankruptcy.
About the Story
Yolanda, a cabaret singer, brings heroin to her lover who drops dead of an overdose. To escape from the police, the singer looks for refuge in a local convent. The Mother Superior, a fan of Yolanda, rapturously greets her. The mission of the order, called the Humiliated Redeemers (Redentoras humilladas), is to offer shelter and redemption to fallen women.
The convent once was a bustling haven for prostitutes, drug addicts and murderers, but it is now in disrepair. The order is facing serious financial hardships as their prime financial supporter, the vain and greedy Marchioness (La Marquesa) has decided to discontinue the convent’s annuity under the pretense of economizing. She feels less affinity with the sisters than did her recently deceased husband, who set up a fund in gratitude. The convent had taken in their wayward daughter, Virginia, who subsequently became a nun and ran off to Africa, only to be eaten by cannibals.
Six religious members of the community live at the convent: the mother Superior, four other nuns and the chaplain. To reinforce their vows of humility, the Mother Superior has given the other nuns repulsive new names: Sister Manure, Sister Damned, Sister Snake and Sister Sewer Rat. With few opportunities for spiritual ministry, the nuns have begun to indulge in their own idiosyncratic pursuits in order to pass the time.
The nurturing Sister Damned compulsively cleans the convent and coddles all the animals under her care, including an overgrown pet tiger that she treats like a son, playing the bongos for him. The ascetic Sister Manure is consumed by thoughts of penitence and corporal self-sacrifice and cooks between LSD hallucinations. She murdered somebody and as the mother superior lied under oath to save her from jail, she is very devoted to her.
The overcurious Sister Sewer Rat gardens and secretly, under the pen name Concha Torres, writes lurid novels about the wayward souls who visit the convent. She smuggles the novels out of the convent through her sister’s periodic visits. The unassuming Sister Snake, with the help of the priest, tailors seasonal fashion collections for dressing the statues of the Virgin Mary. Her piety is a cover up for her romantic love for the chain-smoking chaplain. The mother Superior is a heavy drug user and a lesbian, whose charitable work is a means of meeting needy young women. She admits, “From admiring them so much I have become one of them”.
At the convent, Yolanda mingles with the nuns and spends her time reading the diary of her deceased boyfriend finding out how their relationship really was. The Mother Superior soon falls passionately in love with her. Together, they consume coke and heroin until Yolanda decides both should come off the drugs. Withdrawal for Yolanda is like a painful catharsis, but for the Mother Superior it confirms her very sinful nature. Yolanda keeps the Mother Superior at arm’s length and strikes a friendship with Sister Rat.
Dark Habits – Entre Tinieblas (1983)
Directed by: Pedro Almodóvar
Starring: Cristina Sánchez Pascual, Will More, Laura Cepeda, Miguel Zúñiga, Julieta Serrano, Marisa Paredes, Mary Carrillo, Carmen Maura, Lina Canalejas, Cecilia Roth
Screenplay by: Pedro Almodóvar
Cinematography by: Ángel Luis Fernández
Film Editing by: José Salcedo
Costume Design by: Francis Montesinos, Teresa Nieto
Set Decoration by: Román Arango, Pin Morales
Distributed by: Tesauro
Release Date: March 10, 1983