Unit 1. Faith and Dictatorship. Silence, Violence, Community

This week we sought to understand and read competently the ways in which the forging of fascism, cinema, and religiosity interacted in the first three decades of the 20th century in Spain.  To that end, we read about and discussed the roles played by silence in the work of artistic pioneers, especially filmic.  This, in turn, led us to appreciate the rich tapestry of paradoxes composed of propaganda for and resistance to fascism in Spain before 1930.

Unit 2.  Sound Surrealism Second Republic.jpg

On Tuesday we discussed the basics of “Silent Cinema and Its Pioneers,” and its tales of ‘lost patrimony’ and ‘ghostly remnants’ produced in a time of political and economic upheavals that led to great poverty and much war, as our textbook by Pavolvić notes (1-2).  To understand better the importance of gender roles, performance, and their engagement of honor codes, we watched in class a clip from Benito Perojo’s La Bodega / The Tavern (1929).  On Thursday we compared primitive glimpses of fascism, poverty, and heteronormativity we saw in Perojo’s clip, and we will compare them with those offered by Florián Rey and Luis Buñuel in their respective classic films, La aldea maldita (The Damned Village, 1930) and Un chien andalou (An Andalusian Dog, 1929).

For your reflection this week, comment on the different ways that Perojo, Rey, and Buñuel deploy silence to represent poverty, gender, and the honor code. Please, post your reflection by Sunday at 5pm at the latest.

3 comments

  1. An Andalusian Dog shows us gender through sexuality and the honor code. In this film a man seemingly sexually assaults a woman. After she refuses many times he gropes her breasts. He exploits her gender for his sexual preference and disregards of the honor code of gentleman-ly behavior. In The Damned Village, contrastingly a woman upholds the honor code. Due to her gender she is expected to move back with her husband until his father dies. In this sense her gender is exploited in an effort to uphold the honor code. This contrast is interesting as the movies has two different messages. In the first the honor code is shown as something to respect. When this man exploits it he is clearly in the wrong. In the second, it is almost ambiguous who is in the wrong. The honor code is shown as sacred but it causes this woman to be miserable. These two movies combine to give us an interesting view of the honor code and gender’s role in it

  2. Through the three silent films of Unit 1, the spectator is forced to rely solely on visuals (and occasional text) to represent the meaning of each film, and translate the tropes and themes that each filmmaker is trying to convey. In An Andalusian Dog, for example, the director makes good use of the urban setting and more modern architecture in order to emphasize the ability of the characters in this film to achieve some level of modernity and the fact that they have escaped poverty that a great percentage of the country is living in at the time. The woman who is being sexually harassed in the bedroom represents a woman’s strength and will to exit and flee a negative situation, just as again so many Spanish people were leaving to seek a better future for their families at the time. Her exit also symbolizes the feminist liberation movement and her will to disregard the implied societal honor code in order to attend to her personal needs before a man’s.
    In La Aldea Maldita, the young woman with the baby son is faced with the internal and external guilt of disappointing both herself and her family for possibly making the choice to leave her hometown; her father warns her to not ruin or soil the family name because, in this society, and partially to this day, sons and daughters are essentially vessels that carry the families honor. This film, being that it is silent, relies a lot on the dramatic use of written language as well as body language and facial expressions to convey emotion. Another young woman in the film seems to completely derail/disregard the family honor code by participating in prostitution, which of course goes against the values of Catholicism. For women in this age, marriage and having a husband/family is really the only thing that allows a lot of women many facets of freedom and independence.

  3. The two films this week, Un Chien Andalou and La Aldea Maldita, used the relatively new artistic form of film in order to speak to audiences of the time. These Spanish (or possibly French in the case of Un Chien Andalou) films delve into the complex social structures of the time and challenge the audience’s ideas of what a “role” in society encompasses. In Un Chien Andalou, we are presented with surrealist scenes of multiple different conflicts, the most prominent one being between an unidentified man and woman navigating a sexual encounter. The woman, who attempts to escape from the man’s aggressive nature, indicates a larger struggle of women attempting to free themselves from the patriarchal system that was 20th century Spain. Though the film was pre-fascism, it still speaks to an oppressive rule that many Spaniards wished to remove themselves from. Buñel himself, who left Spain to produce this film, is a symbol of the salida that many Spaniards began to take during this time.
    In La Aldea Maldita the idea of escape is also prevalent as we see a woman leave her “damned village” to pursue a life of her own in a neighboring city. She leaves her family behind as a sign of autonomy over herself. The woman allows herself to be her own person apart from her husband and (not entirely by her choice) her child. Though she is forced back into the home by her husband, her act of defiance once again upholds a theme of facing the Spanish patriarchy and honor code that was prevalent in this time and onward.
    The silence in the films is a factor of necessity, due to the limited technology of the time, but both directors use this to their advantage. The audience in these films is forced to read the characters and emotions that are so beautifully displayed on the screen. The symbols take on even more meaning without any dialogue surrounding it, such as the cutting of the woman’s eye in Un Chien Andalou and the exodus of the villagers in La Aldea Maldita. The directors allow these scenes to speak for themselves and enhance the messages that they wish to convey.

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