This chapter questions what it means to ‘perform’ sickness and disability, and in particular, how common perceptions of the two may be revealed in their cinematic reiteration. Analysing Javier Bardem as emblematic of a whole branch of Spanish acting expertise, the chapter discusses the appearance of disability and illness in Mar adentro/The Sea Inside (Alejandro Amenábar, 2004) and Biutiful (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2010). Rather than assume that illness and disability are already understood phenomena, the chapter instead argues that their threat is kept at bay, that the performance of the two serves to reify the importance of the healthy body. Bardem, for this reason, is emblematic, as his physicality has long been praised and admired in Spanish cinema. For that reason, the chapter concludes, acting choices, cinematic styles, and the artificiality imposed by the camera keep illness and disability at arm’s length, constantly eluding audiences and actors alike.
While several critical works on Spanish cinema have centred on the cultural, social and industrial significance of stars, there has been relatively little critical scholarship on what stars are paid to do: act. Bringing together a range of scholars that attend carefully to the performances, acting styles, and historical influences of Spanish film, Performance and Spanish Film is the first book to place the process of Spanish acting centre stage. Comprising fifteen original essays, the book casts light on the manifold meanings, methods and influences of Spanish screen performance, from the silent era to the present day. It situates the development of Spanish screen acting in both its national and global contexts, tracing acting techniques that are largely indigenous to Spain, as well as unpicking the ways in which Spanish performance has frequently been shaped by international influences and forces. As the volume ultimately demonstrates, acting can serve as a powerful site of meaning through which broader questions around Spanish film practices, culture and society can be explored.