Wednesday, March 6, 2013

“The Spanish Earth”

What I notice from this film is the other-worldliness of Spain at that time. 

The buildings are vaguely recognisable but the men ride donkeys like timeless, rural Africans and the women sweep dirt streets with bent backs because their brooms do not even have such a thing as a simple long handle.

Their faces generally show hardship (something that has recently returned here with the “crisis,”) while skinny dogs scuttle around.

Later, we see teams of men working in the country with hand-held hoes and when a man speaks on the telephone it is surprising because the mental atmosphere of the film could have been almost medieval. 

The war scenes reinforce how empty war always is. The attempts to glorify it with stirring music are hollow only partly because we know that the end result is a stifling dictatorship, four decades long.

In another scene, now in Madrid, ragged children play in the street and in the next frame a man hurriedly carries a seemingly empty coffin over one shoulder. 

Food cues (for some people this is a reality again today) crowd next to destroyed buildings and a single corpse lies in the gutter. (We are told that the body is that of a book-keeper on his way to work at eight in the morning.)

After more battle scenes and shots of noble-peasant types the film, now clearly a piece of propaganda, ends with a man's voice singing a very moving a capella song, ruined somewhat by Hemingway's voice-over.

For a detailed explanation of the making of “The Spanish Earth” see Open Culture here.

No comments: