By Ian Youngs
BBC News Online in Cannes
Almodovar said he received a poor education from his school
This year's Cannes Film Festival has been opened by the new film by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, who won an Oscar in 2003 for his last offering, Talk To Her.
Mr Almodovar has revealed that La Mala Educacion (Bad Education), dealing with the dark subject of abuse by priests in a Catholic school in the 1960s, was partly based on experiences at his own school.
The film, which has had a rapturous reception from critics, centres on the consequences of a priest falling in love with and trying to abuse one of his pupils.
"Yes, I knew priests who acted like that and yes, I knew children who suffered abuse," Mr Almodovar said.
The film-maker said he too received a "bad education" from Catholic priests that was "based on fear of punishment and the feeling of guilt".
But he stressed the story did not relate directly to his own past.
"Naturally, I've witnessed and seen events taking place in the settings in which the film is set," he said.
Bernal said Almodovar creates a close relationship with his actors
"This is a film that certainly represents me - but the events related in the film aren't events from my personal life."
At the heart of the film are two boys who form a close bond at a boarding school in 1964, and a priest who wrestles with his desire for one of them.
Their experiences are woven around the story of the boys 15 years later, with their scars yet to heal. Rising Mexican star Gael Garcia Bernal plays one of the grown-up boys.
In a complex tale of deception and moral dilemmas, the priest still holds sway over the boys' lives when they are adults, when one is a film director and the other a drug addict transvestite.
It is a modern "film noir" about characters who "live dangerously", Mr Almodovar says.
"I know people who live dangerously in that way - very, very dangerously for all sorts of reasons and because of abuses of all sorts of substances."
Some scenes involving the priest and his victim were inspired by two priests he knew, Almodovar has said. But he has also said the priest is his favourite character in the film.
"I wanted to show a person who abuses his power, who commits sexual crimes, but who also loves that child - for him, this is what living dangerously means."
In one scene, Almodovar says he wants the audience to see "in the very dark eyes of the character, the shadow of pleasure and the shadow of the pain he feels".
La Mala Educacion is likely to enhance Almodovar's reputation as one of the masters of global cinema after 20 years of steadily increasing recognition.
He has enjoyed critical hits ranging from Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown in 1987 to 1999's All About My Mother and Talk To Her two years later.
Some subjects in the new film are similar to those in previous movies - but Almodovar says the new offering is "completer and more profound" than his past work.
However, he turned down the chance to be in the running for awards at Cannes this year - preferring to have La Mala Educacion shown out of competition as the opening film.
"Being chosen to open the festival is a prize in itself," he says.
Bernal, who made his name in Mexican hits Amores Perros and Y Tu Mama Tambien, said Mr Almodovar was one of few directors who had "created his own personality".
He builds a "very close relationship" with his actors, which "happens very rarely", Bernal says.
And his co-star Javier Camara - who also appeared in Talk To Her - praised the "extraordinary" experience of working with the 52-year-old film-maker.
"As actors, you are always trying to seek perfection - but Pedro Almodovar wants perfection right from the start," he says.
"I'm very proud of what we've done."