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“At the heart of all great art is an essential melancholy.” These words of Spanish dramatist Federico García Lorca could aptly describe La novia, a new filmic adaptation of his 1932 play Bodas de sangre (‘Blood Wedding’). The tragedy, which details a bride’s indecision when she is torn between her newly-wed husband and her lover, has been brought to the screen by Paula Ortiz.
I went to see this film at a Spanish cinema in Cádiz with friends, and I was not at all disappointed. Although I have never studied this particular play, I am quite familiar with Lorca’s other work, having analysed his Romancero gitano (‘Gypsy Ballads’) at university and his equally influential play La casa de Bernarda Alba (‘The House of Bernarda Alba’) at grammar school.
Throughout his work, Lorca’s sympathy is always with the lower classes, from which his protagonists come. Lorca’s own story is an interesting and melancholic one: he came from a wealthy farming background in Andalucía, but he grew to dislike his status of wealth and identified instead with the lowly. Not only was Lorca troubled by this aspect of his own social identity, he was also homosexual, which adds another dimension to his written work and which, along with his status as a political dissident in the Spanish Civil War, led to his brutal assassination at the hands of the Civil Guard.
La novia is a beautiful film which makes wonderful use of long shots to capture the warm, bare aridity of the Spanish countryside, which acts almost as a metaphor for the death and devastation brought about by the transgression in the story. It was, I imagine, almost a given that this film would win this year’s Goya Award for Cinematography, with thanks to Miguel Amoedo. For the average film-goer, the plentiful, expressive shots may lag, and may be seen as “art for art’s sake”. All the same, one cannot deny the awe they inspire.
In terms of the acting, Inma Cuesta is wonderful in the part of the bride, and often looks strikingly like a young Penélope Cruz. Equally great are the bride’s love interests: Asier Etxeandia, who plays the husband; and Álex García, who plays Leonardo, the lover. Spanish film aficionados will also be able to recall Luisa Gavasa, a stalwart of Spanish cinema, who stuns with her performance as the husband’s mother – a character beset with horrific premonitions of a disastrous marriage. The music, by Shigeru Umebayashi, is also stirring.
Lorca also said in his lifetime that “in Spain, the dead are more alive than the dead of any other country in the world.” This new (filmic) lease of life for Lorca is clear proof of this statement. As I have already seen, Spain is a country which refuses to forget its past: literary, filmic, or otherwise.
Written by Matthew Bruce
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham