“It was five in the afternoon… It was exactly five in the afternoon.” These opening words come to haunt Marcos Zurinaga’s moving Spanish/English co-production, The Disappearance of García Lorca (1996), a partly-fictionalised film attempting to uncover the truth about the assassination of Federico García Lorca, one of Spain’s most respected and yet controversial authors, by the Civil Guard, at the turn of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. The film tells of a journalist, Ricardo (played passionately by Esai Morales), a Spanish exile who decides to return to his native Granada some 20 years after Lorca’s death in an attempt to uncover the truth about the demise of his literary hero. However, now under Franco’s dictatorship, the tensions of Spain’s past are still palpable, and soon Ricardo’s quest for answers becomes a dangerous one indeed.
This film is not particularly well known, unless perhaps you’re a Lorca aficionado. It seems to have gone straight to VHS, and petered out over the years, and is not easily sourced in the shops. More’s the pity, since this is a gripping work. Andy Garcia, a prominent actor at the time, takes the role of Lorca. His Cuban roots means he has enough Spanish in him to execute the role well. Also worth a mention is Dutch actor, Jeroen Krabbé, who takes the role of the dubious Colonel Aguirre. Krabbé is an incredibly versatile actor and a very familiar face in cinema. Any James Bond fan will know him as the bumbling General Koskov from The Living Daylights (1987).
As a languages student who studied my second term abroad in Andalusia, (Lorca’s turf, as it were), I’ve become very interested in Lorca’s history. Some six months ago, I visited Lorca’s family home, which was, paradoxically, tucked away in the expanse of Granada. I couldn’t help feeling a sadness in the rooms, given his tragic story. The film, in a broader sense, is also about time and memory. The recurring motif of the clock, which ties in with the quotation of “Five in the afternoon” from Lorca’s “Lament for the Death of Ignacio Sánchez Mejías” recalls other European films such as Schlöndorff’s The Tin Drum (1979) and Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run (1999). The film’s direction, by Puerto Rican director, Marcos Zurinaga, is inspiring, and the soundtrack by Mark McKenzie is both sad and beautiful. Moreover, the cinematography by Juan Ruiz-Anchía is also very pleasing, featuring many nostalgic shots of Granada. This is a very understated film; consequently one can only hope for its resurgence.
Written by Matthew Bruce
Image copyright: Triumph Films
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham