In the full-length treatment of the child in Spanish cinema, this book explores the ways that the cinematic child comes to represent 'prosthetic memory'. The cinematic children in the book retain traces of their mechanical origins: thus they are dolls, ventriloquists' dummies, cyborgs or automata. Moreover, by developing the monstrous undertones evoked by these mechanical traces (cinema such as 'Frankensteinian dream'), these films, in different ways, return repeatedly to a central motif. The central motif is the child's confrontation with a monster and, derivatively, the theme of the monstrous child. Through their obsessive recreation over time, the themes of the child and the monster and the monstrous child come to stand in metonymically for the confrontation of the self with the horrors of Spain's recent past. The book focuses on the cine religioso (religious cinema), in particular, Marcelino, pan y vino. The children of cine religioso appear like automata, programmed to love unconditionally an absent mother. The book then examines the Marisol's films from the 1960s and the way she was groomed by her creators to respond and engineer the economic and cultural changes of the consumerist Spain of the 1960s. It further deals with Victor Erice's El espiritu de la colmena and works through cinematic memories of this film in later works such as El laberinto del fauno, El orfanato and El espinazo del diablo. The films are seen to gesture towards the imaginary creation of a missing child.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book focuses on the cine religioso (religious cinema), in particular, Marcelino, pan y vino. It examines the Marisol films from the 1960s and the way that she was groomed by her creators to respond to and engineer the economic and cultural changes of the consumerist Spain of the 1960s. The book also focuses on the Victor Erice's El espiritu de la colmena and works through cinematic memories of this film in later works such as El laberinto del fauno, El orfanato and El espinazo del diablo. It explores adolescent embodiment through touch and fantasy and returns the spectator to the powerlessness of childhood. The book also examines violence and oppressive religion as legacies of Francoism in two recent Spanish films, El Bola and Camino.
This chapter concentrates on the ways that Marcelino, pan y vino brings the child to life on screen. It develops the idea of the child of the cine religioso as automaton by focusing on the dubbing practices which saw the child voiced by an adult female actress. The child as the future of Francoism's future was one of the central tenets of National Catholic ideology. The definition of aura arises from Walter Benjamin's reflections on Baudelaire, Proust, the photograph and memory, which led him to muse on the auratic encounter. Pavlovic concurs, suggesting that 'the presence of flamenco in Joselito's opus is not a question of entertainment, but an articulation of the passage from the traditional to secularised society'. Un traje blanco celebrates commodity culture even as it exalts the pricelessness of the child.
Marisol was the darling of the Franco regime. Marisol's first film, Un rayo de luz (A Ray of Light, Luis Lucia, 1960), fetishises transformations. The transformations Manuel Goyanes wrought on his young star were recapitulated in the 'Pygmalion theme' which was the subject of most of her films. Viewing Marisol's films in the light of revelations about her exploitation may allow us access to a part of Spanish history which might be reconsidered before taking its place in a revised cultural memory. Earlier films had stressed flamenco as the essence of Spanishness, in Busqueme a esa chica (Get that Girl for Me, Fernando Palacios/George Sherman, 1964). Marisol as archive and icon of cultural memory, charts the coming of age of a nation. Marisol retired from public life leaving endless speculation about her life, her private life and the ways she represents the feelings of the nation.
This chapter presents the Joe Kelleher's description of the dialectical relationship with the child as 'looked at, looked for and looking' to explore the child as spectacle, narrative and gaze. It chapter begins with a reconsideration of Ana Torrent's performance to explore the ways that the film establishes the dark-eyed child's gaze as visual motif. A recurrent motif in films with recreated memories of the war and its aftermath is the child and the monster, or, in a metonymic twist, the monstrous child. In a mise-en-abyme structure, the child is a witness to a prosthetic memory as the spectator views history on screen through the child. The chapter explores art-house films, horror films and those which develop the art-horror hybrid. It also explores films of the post Franco era which appear, in different ways, to refer back to Ana's gaze as the acknowledgement of the burdens of history.
Embodiment and adolescence in recent Spanish films
This chapter examines two films including El Bola and Camino from the recent Spanish past. It then explores the traumatic legacies of endemic machismo and violence and National Catholicism on the Spain of the early twenty-first century. Spanish youths remain in the family home longer than their European counterparts and in the 1990s 'student' was the profession most represented by young people in Spanish film. Adolescence in Spain is a 'social issue' as it is elsewhere in the Western world. Skin makes itself felt in the film El Bola, as subject, but also extends into its possible modes of spectatorship. The film Camino revels in its polysemy: the martyrology discourse is imbricated with the young girl's Disneyesque fantasy life and her desire to play the lead in a production of Cinderella at the local youth centre.
This conclusion presents some closing thoughts on the concepts discussed in the preceding chapters of this book. The book shows how children's acting has in different ways involved an accessing of the real through fakery: Marcelino was offered sweets to make his face light up; Ana Torrent felt real fear at the monster. It interprets the child in Marcelino, pan y vino as a passive victim of National Catholic ideology. The book explores how masculinity in Spain is still labouring under the legacies left by Francoist patriarchal models. It also explores the tortured teen body not as a 'traceless event', but as one marked by the imprints of the Spanish past. Victor Erice's iconic El espiritu de la colmena is paradigmatic of the ways that Spanish films can engage with history through the figure of the child.
Renegotiating Chilean identity in Alicia Scherson’s Play (2005)
This chapter considers the ways in which Alicia Scherson's Play reflects on identity in post-Pinochet Chile. By centring on the experiences of a marginalised Mapuche woman, the film contemplates the ways that present-day Santiago reflects or refutes social divisions. Filmed in digital brilliance, Santiago rises up as the film's glittering co-protagonist. Part of Scherson's project was to depict Santiago cinematically. Through the image of the flâneur, the walker in the city, the film meditates on the possibilities of social cohesion, identity politics and the right to space. In Play the division between private and public and the right to space in relation to the flâneuse gains new vigour in twenty-first century Chile as the main character is a Mapuche domestic worker. Domestic servants are practically invisible and yet at the core of family life, 'marginal[s] on the inside'.
Through a close analysis of the 1930 version of La aldea maldita, this chapter reflects on the influences ushered in by Spain’s embrace of modernity. Touted as ‘Spain’s last silent film’ as well as its most important one, La aldea maldita presents a harsh, minimalist beauty that has long been praised by audiences and critics. The chapter shows that the acting style is influenced not just by trends of the time but also by the film’s relationship to sound: after the disastrous experience with the sonorisation of a previous film, Rey decided to film La aldea maldita as if it were silent, when in fact the first showing of the film included sound. It also addresses the performance in the version of this film, questioning the sense of anachronism that now pervades them and reflecting on attitudes to aesthetics, acting and the cinematic medium itself.