National, Transnational (26-28 September)

This week we are going to explore the dyad national/transnational, and how it works in the cinema and literature of twentieth-century Spain.  This week we do NOT have a reading by Pavlović; instead, on Tuesday we will discuss three articles that will help us understand this critical matter for our seminar.  The articles are Steven Marsh’s on National-Popular and García Berlanga’s ¡Bienvenido Mister Marshall!, Kathleen Vernon’s on Hollywood, trade wars, and transculturation, and Daniel Mourenza’s on Bardem and Hollywood Melodrama.

With Luis García Berlanga and Juan Antonio Bardem, ¡Bienvenido Mister Marshall (Welcome, Mr. Marshall!) (1953) on Wednesday we will see a representation of the national/transnational dynamics of economic independence after the good times of the Republic, another turn of the screw on the by then familiar españoladas,  and the way in which cinematic development plays with these dynamics.

On Thursday, we will read a segment of Mercé Rodoreda’s La plaça del diamant (In Diamond Square), and we will hear .  On Thursday, we will hear Ms. Tate present the article by Benet, “Historical Films During the First Years of the Franco Regime and their Transnational Models” (31-41)

By Saturday at 5PM at the latest, please post comments, questions, or doubts you have regarding this dyad of national/transnational, and how you see it represented in the cinema and literature we are going to discuss.


13 Replies to “National, Transnational (26-28 September)”

  1. This unit has been a particularly interesting one in that the mixture of transnational and national themes portrayed in our screening, and how they work in conversation with each other as well as against each other. I found that reading Steven Marsh’s analysis of Berlanga before screening Bienvenido Mister Marshall! was beneficial in identifying key markers of varying political, social, and religious ideals. That’s perhaps what intrigues me the most about this screening–the fact that different sides can each find a way to claim it, and justify the representation of their beliefs in the film’s scenes. The nationalism presented in Berlanga’s movie is an unexpected one, yet one that fits in the category of neorealism in that it presents an unprecedented level of accuracy. By this I mean that the Spain presented in this film is a very real, unfiltered one. The villagers made ironic assumptions about American expectations, and therefore plastered a Hollywood-vision version of Spain, throwing stereotypes onto their town. Yet, the transnational aspect of the film comes in here as well, because the divide between the Spaniards and the Americans becomes extremely evident. The Americans are portrayed through a Spanish expectation of being hyper-violent, nuanced, modern, and Western. The characters have dreams about the KKK, about Western films, about what these people will be like, and yet the Americans just blow through the town without a thought or a nod towards this desperate village. As Marsh points out, this speaks ironically to how these characters fetishized the Andalusian vision of Spain for* the Americans, because they assumed that’s what they wanted, yet this was a false reality. Marsh also mentioned that this film is divided into “formal episodes,” meaning that it was a repeating day and night progression towards the big day, the day the Americans were to arrive and change everything. In this way, I think Berlanga created a very sad narrative, because as an audience member, you’re built up for this big arrival, just as the country of Spain was hopeful for aid and relief from the fascist disaster in their country (as least, that’s a liberal reading of the film, which so cleverly can be twisted other ways around), and then there’s nothing changed, and disappointment. I really enjoyed reading further into this black comedy/drama/political commentary of a film, and hearing what Marsh thought of it.

  2. In Bienvenidos Mr. Marshall we get to see the world through an interesting perspective, one which has not been shown thus far in any of our films: the view of American from Spain in their time of need. The village, post-war, is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Americans, who they expect to bring them gifts and aid to assist in their recovery. In their preparation for the Americans to visit, however, the village presents an important image. In preparing, they are recreating their town in the image that they think Americans would think of when they think of Spain. Their preparation include a theatrical, physical building with Andalusian architecture, and a clock which they build yet that can only be manually operated (another significant note in line with the film’s commentary on time and chronotope). As Stephen Marsh notes, national stereotype is “made use of” and debated within a number of realms, including the United States and Spain, Andalusia and Castile, and the popular and the populist. The viewer notices, as the film progresses, that ironically, with the recreating of the desirable Andalusian image, with traditional Spanish dress, song, and the like, the village itself is actually building up pride of its own nation in this way, even in such times of uncertainty and instability. In other words, the village created a sense of unity and pride amongst its citizens by reaching to the past, arguably a nostalgic grasp on its own historical memory, and bringing to the forefront the most glorified vision of Spain it could muster—even one they themselves were unfamiliar with on a personal level. These images also reminded me of some of the aspects of historical memory, such as the clips of the classic Spanish dancers, in Patino’s Canciones para después de una guerra.

    The film’s ties with transnationalism are also very interesting. The village is moving into a transnational phase in the way that it is opening up to the outside at all, accepting ideas and images of a more Western, progressive world. In the film, the United States represents a kind of “other,” a contemporary unknown that will break the repetitive, cyclical nature of the town, disrupting its status quo. Though the Americans are the foreigners in this instance, there is also the idea that Spain even within Spain can be foreigners as well, which is inherently seen in the way that the Spaniards themselves have to recreate Spain. This idea flips them outside of the mold that one might at first expect of nationalist pride. In this sense, I could question whether the notions of Spaniards as outsiders even within their own country recreating the image they think their country has as a certain kind of nationalistic transnationalism, in which they are building up a nationalistic image that they themselves are foreign to. This idea brings up interesting questions regarding what it means to be the “other” and if the villager’s nationalist push to fit in with these ideas is a kind of microcosm of Spain’s push for transnationalism and desire to catch up to the rest of the Western world.

  3. This week, nationalism and transnationalism was shown in a unique way during the film screening. In Bienvenido Mister Marshall, they used multiple comical moments to keep such a serious topic portrayed in a lighter manner.

    An interesting element of the movie was the multiple dream sequences. This ties back into the last few discussions we have had because the topic of dreams keeps coming up. The dreams shown in the movie represent their fears. In a way, the dream is a way of taking the gaze back. Showing how Spain and Italy cannot wake up from Fascism since it is still present. In addition, due to their extreme poverty they didn’t even know what to dream for, but within their dreams it showed their true self.

    I also find it interesting how everything ties back into the past discussions we have. For instance, the damned village references Acacia with the deaf lady who just wanted chocolate. The dark bedrooms and gloomy lighting all bringing it back to the damned village. Also, with the Americans coming and leaving very fast, it was an adaptation of the Lumiere brothers with the train coming and going. All of these film elements keep recurring showing how film was described in that time period.

    In contrast, the literature piece we read, Diamond Square, at first I did not understand how it relates to nationalism. Her fiancé was an overbearing male figure which could be considered as a parallel to Fascism along with the second husband saving her being transnationalism. Also, her thoughts come off as scattered which is a stream of consciousness which is another element of dreaming. She is trying to advance and come of age, but the men in her life are making it difficult for her, relating back to Fascism.

    All in all, it was interesting to see how Bienvenido Mister Marshall related to the literature from this week in terms of nationalism and transnationalism.

  4. Welcome Mister Marshall is a social critique on the political climate in Spain after World War II. The Marshall Plan freed the rest of the Western European nations from the economic devastation left in the wake of Nazi annexation. The Marshall Plan excluded Spain, who claimed a policy of neutrality during WWII and remained under fascism. Their exclusion left Spain further isolated from its neighbors under Franco’s fascist regime. Berlanga criticizes the paralytic nature of Spanish society against the backdrop of a changing Europe, mainly due to Franco’s policies of isolation. The national and transnational relations in the film are portrayed through the Spanish characters’ stereotypical behaviors and clichéd views of Americans.

    Berlanga’s characters in Welcome Mister Marshall are based on stereotypes of Spanish people. The townspeople are desperately working to charm the Americans and, in pursuance, they exaggerate many of their national customs. Their extravagant efforts are symbolic of the general feeling of the Spanish people during this period. They are struggling to maintain their individual and national identity under the reigns of fascism and struggling with feelings of foreignness in their own country. Their hope for the Americans to arrive to help them is representative of the modernity that they are blindly waiting to attain. Berlanga is stating the nightmare of fascism is continuing in Spain, while the rest of the Western countries are fortunately awakening from their nightmares with the help of the Americans.

    Additionally, Berlanga satirizes the industrial complex of the white savior. The townspeople perceive the Americans as powerful and violent cowboys and as the people who are going to rescue them from their economic troubles. The Americans, who are helping these people of color for relatively self-serving reasons (to spread anti-communist politics to Western Europe on the eve of the Cold War), are painted as savior figures throughout the film. Eventually, the Americans avoid stopping in their town. Their feelings of disappoint are parallel to Spain’s feelings of disillusionment after their exclusion from the Marshall Plan and having to readjust to their troubled reality under Franco.

  5. In “Bienvenido Mr. Marshall,” Berlanga explores the small Spanish town as it prepares for a handout from the United States government. As they prepare, they try to present their town as a stereotypical perfect Spanish town. In this esperpento, the humor comes from absurdity. It is absurd to have a mayor that is deaf, since he is practically unable to converse with the town’s folk and his supervisor. He therefore rambles at town meetings and yells over people he cannot hear. This is not someone who should be in charge of a town. Another absurd scene is when they attempt to teach the people in the town stereotypical Spanish things that the Americans will like. The men try to learn how to bull fight and the women try to learn the flamenco. The instructors use the same rhythm counting off the men and the women as they practice. All the townspeople are clueless in what they are doing, which is to be expected since bull fighting and flamenco are traditionally parts of Andalucían culture. Flamenco is foreign to these people from a small town in the middle of Spain, but they feel obligated to learn it so the Americans will perceive them as Spanish. The all-encompassing absurdity is the great lengths these people go through to receive aid, when in the end it only costs them money and effort. Everyone must give something to pay for the endeavor; even the deaf mayor has to give up his hearing device and becomes truly deaf. The Spanish people generalize the Americans by assuming what they want to see when they think Spain, and in doing so, the people of the town generalize themselves in order to fit the mold.

  6. This week we focused on nationalism and transnationalism. We watched the movie Welcome Mr. Marshall which was a parody on Spanish Nationalism and makes fun of Americans with the Spanish expectations. This movie was has an interesting outlook on the political, social, and economical situation in Spain while Franco was in power. I thought that the nationalism shown in this movie was through the way that the Spanish people thought of the Americans. They thought that they would come with a lot of money and therefore granted each person in the village an item. However, when the Americans came to Spain they were portrayed as these violent cowboys that were there to cause trouble. That brings in the transnationalism because of the way that the Spanish view the Americans. Marsh said something really interesting that I took away which was that the Spanish were envisioning the Americans to be a type of way, but this also says something about the people of Spain to think this way about the Americans. I noticed that the folk songs in the movie were more form the Republican era and that it didn’t come from the Franco regime. The parody aspect comes in when the village people come back from their houses after seeing a “cowboy film” and they use the same elements of the film into the movie when depicting Americans. The arrival of the delegate and the music interest were to intensify the grotesque nature of the representatives of power. Berlanga basically adopts a critical attitude towards the both historical reality and aesthetic representations.

  7. For this week’s topic of transnationality and economic independence, we viewed Luis García Berlanga’s Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall, which explored the stereotypical perspectives that each culture had for one another through small town’s point of view. Many different viewpoints were represented through each of the characters, from the priest who was fairly Anti-American and traditional, to the farmers and the mayor who viewed Americans as almost Santa Claus figures. The film utilizes these characters to provide insight into the “bendito atraso” of Spain and gives Berlanga his title of being the “Spanishness” Incarnate. He exemplifies the reality of Spain during this time period, and how political and social Spanish backwardness affects their relationships with other countries.
    Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall unravels into a parody, and through Kathleen M. Vernon’s literary analysis we see how Berlanga utilized both national and transnational sentiments to develop his ambiguity throughout his film. We never are able to fully decide whether Berlanga which side he stands for, therefore leaving the audience to contemplate and decide for themselves. But even at that point, Berlanga almost leaves us feeling like we can’t decide, just like the Spanish citizens within the film. Conflicted and frozen, some townspeople get their hopes up for the Americans, while others freeze and decide not to have high expectations for them. The ambiguous ending of the film further reiterates the civilians’ questioning of their current reality, and has the audience finding themselves feeling both sadness and frustration for the townspeople.
    Kathleen M. Vernon also describes a stylistic choice that Berlanga makes in his film, using Italian neorealism and American film noir to convey different political messages. Although Vernon states that Spanish cinema was not modelled after American cinema, Berlanga uses iconic features of American film to utilizes escapism, allowing his audience to remove themselves from the Spanish commercial cinematic constraints of his time. In doing so, Vernon describes how Berlanga was able to portray that movies are like dreams, in that they are an indirect expression of our thoughts created through our conscious mind. With this, Berlanga channels all the conflicting viewpoints of the townspeople into one movie, speaking to the conscious mind of his audience, almost appearing to have a cinematic and interactive conversation with the world viewing it.

  8. This week’s topic, of national and transnational can be portrayed through the movies and literature we have read. In Canciones para Despues de una Guerra, wee the nationalist point of view during Franco’s reign as well as the nostalgia present in the Spanish community. It was interesting to see these contrasting point of views of proud nationalist hailing Franco as well as the distressed, oppressed population. In Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall, by Luis Garcia Berlanga, goes beyond the nationalist point of view of Spain to a trans-nationalist view of why the Marshall plan wasn’t coming to Spain to help them. The Marshall plan was an economic aid from America to European countries after World War II. The plan did not reach Spain was in part due to the still prevalent Francoist rule. As, Spain was living with a wall of fascism that didn’t other countries come in. The movie does a magnificent job to portray such serious themes through a more comical perspective. Berlanga emphasizes stereotypes of the Spanish and American people. It’s interesting how the films in a way makes fun of the strong stereotypes upheld by Franco during his reign. For example, the American are seen as powerful (economically) and even as cowboys. I think that this is one of his greatest mechanism, which is to emphasize how people tend to simplify complex issues.

  9. Nationalism and Transnationalism are two intertwined words that describe the ultimate divide existing in Spain pre, during, and post Spanish Civil War era. The country was torn between those who believed in Franco and his effort to amplify fascism, and those that rather wanted to maintain a relationship with the external world and resist the autarky. These two views colliding is the premise of Bienvenido Mr. Marshall, set in a village that is trying to act Andalusian. Berlanga does an amazing job weaving stereotypes of Spaniards with stereotypes of Americans. This is most notable in the dreams of multiple different characters on how they view our country. The priest, for example, dreams about being tried by the KKK because all that he has heard about America is its abundance of racism. Similarly, people viewed America as being progressive and completely modern and dreamed of receiving gifts from this country. I really liked how in the movie Berlanga showed how even in Spain people wanted to revive the classic “Andalusian” feel for the village because that’s what they thought Americans wanted to see. They dressed like they were from Andalusia and even put up sets to make the houses look more quaint.
    Berlanga creatively meshes these opposing stereotypes into the film, making it one of the classic films that shaped cinema in Spain.

  10. This week we focused on how transnationalism and nationalism are presented in film and literature. These concepts can be seen in both Welcome, Mr. Marshall! and In Diamond Square, although these two works have very different content. The importance of the square is national to Spain and can be seen in both the film and literature. A small square in Barcelona and the main square in a small town have the same role of bringing people together. In Welcome, Mr. Marshall! the town square was where the audience was introduce to the inhabitants of Villar del Río and where the whole town came together to welcome the Americans. The small square in Barcelona is so significant to the protagonist that the author made it the title of her book just to emphasize that. Diamond Square plays a similar role to the one in Villar del Río because it brings its residents together in the form of a party and it is at that party where the protagonist meets a guy and her life drastically changes.

    The transnational element that caught my eye in both of these works was the characters’ struggle for money. People from all over the word can relate to that issue, even if their country is not economically independent. In Welcome, Mr. Marshall! the reason the town is so eager to please the Americans is because the town has no money and they believe the Americans will help them. In my opinion, the saddest part in the movie was when the mayor lines up all of the citizens and have them declare one thing they need because in the end the Americans do not deliver. The chapters we read from In Diamond Square never explicitly mentions any other place outside of Spain, but the readers are still able to see Joe and Natalia’s economic struggle and understand what they are going through.

  11. Bienvenido Mr. Marshall explores the dyad of nationalism and transnationalism through the eyes of a small, Spanish town. There is a sort of ‘tug-and-pull” between transnationalism and nationalism. Nationalism focuses on the preservation of Spain as an independent entity, autarky, and Fascism. Transnationalism, rather, has its basis in international relations. The United States Marshall Plan facilitated transnational communication and aid to Europe, but not necessarily, to Spain. The Marshall Plan is what drives the representation of this dyad within this film as small Spanish towns prepare to receive from the Americans, moving toward a transnational focus. In preparation, these towns, specifically Villar del Rio, revert back to a stereotypical nationalist viewpoint of hispanidad. Those in the town are taught bull fighting and flamenco dancing, even though these ‘traditions’ are not tradition to them in central Spain, but rather to Andalucía. As the townsfolk work to please the Americans before their anticipated arrival through embodying Spanish stereotypes , they also look at America in a stereotypical manner. Townsfolk dream of the KKK and classic “Western” lifestyles rife with cowboy hats and guns. This small, neglected town in Spain wanted transnational help, while they clearly focused on revving up the Nationalist sense of pride before the Americans arrival. Just as quickly as the Americans came and left the small town, the facades of a stereotypical Spanish town came down and their simple, and true way of life resumed.

  12. The concept we explored today through both our film and literary mediums this week is the nationalistic and transnationalistic chronotope in the era of Spain before during and after the civil war. The film we watched, Welcome Mr. Marshall and the book excerpt we read from Diamond Square both set the chronotope of their respective settings primarily in the town square. As we discussed in class, the town square of these respective cities is not some marvelous human wonder that tourists from all over the world come to visit, but on the contrary, it is just a small meeting place that holds the small town’s big events such as the dance or the visit from the Americans. The film and the literary work set the “time” aspect of their respective chronotpe’s to reflect a Spain that is undergoing massive economic and civil issues and its people are being enlightened towards modernity slowly but surely. Throughout the film for example, the delegate, mayor and citizens are all looking forward to the Americans saving improving their lives and pool all of their resources to try and create a big event at the town square to impress the Americans. Everyone except for the quixotic town councilmen and the backwards priest are greatly in favor of the American presence. On the other hand, in the novel the main character is a women and she describes her experiences and thoughts on life which is highly unusual at this time period not only in Spain, but in all of Europe. Her Virginia Wolf esque stream of consciousness work in which she matures from a young women to a grown women who is in control of her whole life was the first of its kind in Spain. This style of writing in itself shows the transnational period of Spain as it was beginning to embrace points of view other than Franco’s and Spain was willing to listen to people and countries which it had not listened to in the past due to its exceptionalist ideology.

  13. This week we focused on the idea of national and transnational film and literature. The film we watched Bienvenido Mister Marshall was a clever, humorous, and informative representation of a little town in Spain a few years after the end of the Second World War. Released in 1953, the film came at an interesting time in Europe. Italian Neorealism had its short moment in the spotlight that would influence global cinema for decades. Filmmakers such as De Sica, Fellini, and Rosellini were releasing work about the struggle of the time period following the war. They were brutally honest about the state of Italy and were not afraid of letting the rest of the world know. Bienvenido Mister Marshall takes a satirical approach to these themes. The economy in Spain is teetering and the little village of Villar del Río has been long forgotten. When they receive word that North Americans are visiting, they begin extensive preparation for their arrival. Because America was in the process of saving Europe with their Marshall Plan, the village wants to impress these North Americans. Their perception of Americans comes straight from westerns and other programs on TV. They also want the village to look the way that an American might expect a Castillian village to look like. What is interesting here is that in both cases, the villagers are working on assumptions and expectations. A funny narrator keeps us informed throughout the film on the happenings in case we get confused. This narration could be taken right out of the style of Film Noir, but with the sense of parody. All in all, the film was a joy to watch. While many of the Italian Neorealist films failed to do well in the country it was depicting, it is not surprising that Welcome Mister Marshall was and still is a huge success in Spanish Cinema.

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