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The Spanish Civil War in cinema
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This book charts the changing nature of cinematic depictions of the Spanish Civil War. In 1936, a significant number of artists, filmmakers and writers – from George Orwell and Pablo Picasso to Joris Ivens and Joan Miró – rallied to support the country's democratically elected Republican government. The arts have played an important role in shaping popular understandings of the Spanish Civil War, and the book examines the specific role cinema has played in this process. Its focus is on fictional feature films produced within Spain and beyond its borders between the 1940s and the early years of the twenty-first century – including Hollywood blockbusters, East European films, the work of the avant garde in Paris and films produced under Franco's censorial dictatorship.

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Film, history and the Spanish Civil War
David Archibald

This chapter presents an overview of the Spanish Civil War and describes different films that tackle the issue. It focuses on fictional feature films produced within Spain and beyond its borders between the 1940s and the early years of the twenty-first century, and attempts to situate the analyses within contemporary debates on Spanish Civil War historiography, the philosophy of history and the relationship between the past and its cinematic representation. The Spanish Civil War began on July 17 1936 when a right-wing rebellion organised from Spanish military garrisons in North Africa and the Canary Islands was launched against a left-leaning Republican government. It ended with the rebels proclaiming victory on April 1 1939.

in The war that won't die
For Whom the Bell Tolls
David Archibald

This chapter discusses For Whom the Bell Tolls, an adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's best-selling novel, and also considers Blockade and The Spanish Earth. It examines how Hollywood appropriated Hemingway's novel as part of a broader move to construct cinematic depictions of the Spanish Civil War suitable to wartime America's needs. The shifting manner of US cinematic representations of the conflict provides an example of ‘willing backwards’, a process in which the past is re-narrativised in the interests of those in the present.

in The war that won't die
Fünf Patronenhülsen/Five Cartridges
David Archibald

This chapter explores the East German film Fünf Patronenhülsen/Five Cartridges, looking at the way it corresponded with the then-ruling Socialist Unity Party's desire to construct an anti-fascist national heritage, one which valorised the International Brigades as part of the attempt to legitimise the existence of the East German state and its communist leadership, many of whom had fought for the Republic. Although superficially, Five Cartridges appears to be an uncritical homage to the International Brigades, the chapter argues that a tension arises from the complex characterisation of the International Brigade members.

in The war that won't die
Fernando Arrabal and the Spanish Civil War
David Archibald

This chapter looks at Paris, the exiled residence of Fernando Arrabal, and at two films that Arrabal directed, ¡Viva La Muerte!/Long Live Death! and L'arbre de Guernica/The Tree of Guernica. A former member of the Paris Surrealist Group and co-founder of the experimental theatre group Panique, Arrabal drew on his childhood experiences in Spanish-controlled North Africa during the 1930s to create two searing, surrealist-inspired films melding autobiography and history. This discussion also explores the efficacy of his deployment of shock tactics as an attempt to provoke a political response from the audience.

in The war that won't die
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La caza/The Hunt and El jardín de las delicias/The Garden of Delights
David Archibald

This chapter examines how oppositional filmmakers in Spain presented alternative views to the official state narrative during the dictatorship's latter years, focusing on the work of Carlos Saura, particularly La caza/The Hunt and El jardín de las delicias/Garden of Delights. It looks at how filmmakers, unable to deal directly with their subject matter due to censorial constraints, employed metaphorical and allegorical filmmaking to comment obliquely on the conflict.

in The war that won't die
patterns of the past in Vacas/Cows
David Archibald

This chapter examines the Basque-set historical drama Vacas/Cows, which places the civil war within the context of the Basque country's violent past and highlights the importance of understanding the conflict's nationalist dimension. It engages with the cyclical view of history that the film presents, contrasting it with the historiographical perspectives outlined previously, and also explores Julio Medem's own relationship with Basque politics and the importance of Basque history to any understanding of the civil war.

in The war that won't die
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Comedy and the Spanish Civil War in cinema
David Archibald

This chapter explores whether it is possible to narrativise the civil war as a comedy through an exploration of four Spanish productions from the 1980s and 1990s that utilise comic elements: ¡Ay Carmela!, Belle Époque, La vaquilla and Libertarias/Libertarians. It examines whether the past contains discernible patterns and whether representations of the past, written or cinematic, are determined by the intrinsic nature of the events that they purport to represent or, conversely, whether these representations are determined by the emplotment and narrativisation choices of those operating in the present.

in The war that won't die
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El espinazo del Diablo/The Devil’s Backbone
David Archibald

Shifting to horror, this chapter deals with how the civil war is represented by the Mexican-born filmmaker, Guillermo del Toro, concentrating particularly on El espinazo del Diablo/The Devil's Backbone, presenting a ghost story set in the civil war's closing months, and the relationship between the figure of the ghost and the past. Although by 1995 the civil war had been the subject of numerous Spanish films, even the free-wheeling post-Franco Spanish cinema has been extremely reluctant to tackle some of the thornier issues of the Civil War period. The chapter considers debates about the figure of the ghost in popular culture and its relationship to debates over the historical process, before examining the use of ghosts in this specific film.

in The war that won't die
Land and Freedom/Tierra y Libertad
David Archibald

This chapter explores how the thorny issue of inter-Republican conflict is represented in Land and Freedom/Tierra y Libertad, an overtly political cinematic engagement with the period that resurrects the conflict's revolutionary dimension. It explores the capacity of non-self-reflexive cinema to foster a historical consciousness in audiences, arguing that the social realist film form utilised by the filmmakers is an entirely valid one for representing the past cinematically and considering the political controversy surrounding the film's release. The chapter also examines some of the pitfalls in representing complex events through the medium of cinema, but concludes that in resurrecting the revolutionary aspects of the fight against fascism, Land and Freedom is one of the most important films dealing with the period.

in The war that won't die