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Conflict and Controversy in Small Cinemas


Edited By Janina Falkowska and Krzysztof Loska

This book examines small cinemas and their presentation of society in times of crisis and conflict from an interdisciplinary and intercultural point of view. The authors concentrate on economic, social and political challenges and point to new phenomena which have been exposed by film directors. They present essays on, among others, Basque cinema; gendered controversies in post-communist small cinemas in Slovakia and Czech Republic; ethnic stereotypes in the works of Polish filmmakers; stereotypical representation of women in Japanese avant-garde; post-communist political myths in Hungary; the separatist movements of Catalonia; people in diasporas and during migrations. In view of these timely topics, the book touches on the most serious social and political problems. The films discussed provide an excellent platform for enhancing debates on politics, gender, migration and new aesthetics in cinema at departments of history, sociology, literature and film.

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1. A call for freedom in the Spanish cinema (from a local perspective) (Iwona Kolasińska-Pasterczyk)

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Iwona Kolasińska-Pasterczyk

Instytut Sztuk Audiowizualnych, Uniwersytet Jagielloński, Poland

1. A call for freedom in the Spanish cinema (from a local perspective)

Abstract: My presentation focuses on independence and separatist tendencies of Catalonia in Spain, as well as on national and ethnic stereotypes in Catalonian identities as expressed in cinema. Freedom Trilogy (Victoria 1, 2, and 3 from 1983 to 1984 by Antoni Ribas), which represents Catalonian regional cinema, serves as a basis for understanding of the identification with a community and the perception of the local distinction. The film communicates an important independence issue: Freedom Trilogy is a historical fresco dealing with separate national and ethnic identity of Catalonia.

Keywords: Microregionalism, cinema Catalan, national identity, cine autonómico, Catalan identity, Catalan culture, historical super productions, Victoria 1, 2, 3

A historical reconstruction enables the recovery of a lost memory.1 In the case of Catalonia, a turn towards the past in the Spanish cinema that started in the so-called “transition period” (1975–1982) had a special significance because of the importance of nationalist tendencies that were present in the region. The Catalan cinema, as a cinematography separate from the national one, first appeared after the first free elections in Spain held on 15 June 1977 and granted some national groups and regions a certain level of autonomy (including Catalonia and the Basque Country). The Catalan Cinema Institute was created by a group of Catalan cinematographers and intellectuals on 20 December 1975, only 1 month after General Francisco Franco’s death (20 November 1975). The first commercial success of the Catalan cinema was La ciutat cremada (Burnt City, 1976) directed by Antoni Ribas, set between the years 1899 and 1909. Antoni Ribas revived the Catalonian history with two pieces – the above-mentioned Burnt City and the so-called “freedom trilogy,” a historical fresco in three acts, Victoria parts 1, 2, and 3, produced between 1983 and 1984. In 1985, Catalan filmmakers established the Association of the Directors of the Catalan Cinema with Bigas Luna chosen as its president and Antoni Ribas as vice-president. ← 19 | 20 →

“A Call for Freedom” in the Spanish cinema, with its national specifics, is best depicted in the “freedom trilogy” – Victoria parts 1, 2, and 3. This film belongs to the cine autonomico (regional cinema) trend presenting the essence of Catalonian “dream of autonomy.”

“The Freedom Trilogy”

Ribas’ “freedom trilogy,” a historical super-production of the Catalan cinema, consists of three films: Victòria! La gran aventura de un pueblo (Victory! The Great Adventure of the Catalan People) [Victoria! La gran aventura d`un poble], released on 9 September 1983; Victoria!-2 (El frenesi del 17/The Frenzy of the 1917) [Victòria 2: La disbauxa del 17], released on 6 December 1983; and Victoria!-3 (La razón y el arrebato/Victory!-3: Reason and Exultation) [Victoria-3: El seny i la rauxa], released on 3 February 1984. It was produced in two language versions – Spanish and Catalan.

Ribas’ monumental historical epic poem in three acts (the first part is 142 minutes long, the second and the third 135 minutes each) reminds the viewer of the beginning of the Restoration Period (1917–1930) in Spain2. Precisely, it covers the period between 1917 and the rise of Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship (Rivera was the commander of the military district in Catalonia between 1922 and 1923 and the Spanish Prime Minister after a peaceful coup d’état that took place on 13 September 1923). The action of all the parts of the film takes place in Barcelona. The main plot is set against the background of World War I (in which Spain was not involved) and develops as an aftermath of the events happening in Russia. Echoes of the victory of the October Revolution reach the anarchists proclaiming revolutionary slogans about liberation. The plot depicts the crisis in the country – a political, ideological, and governmental crisis that culminated between 1917 and 1918– and it illustrates the road of the Catalonians to achieving full autonomy. The fight against centralisation of power in Madrid is symbolised by the preparations to blow up the Montjuïc fortress standing on a hill over Barcelona, representing the oppression of the regime. The plan of destroying the fortress links all three parts of the trilogy.

The action of the first part of the trilogy starts in June 1917, the year when a “period of deep upheaval which transformed Spanish society”3 began. The ← 20 | 21 → ideological crisis among the ruling class led gradually to the crisis in the country, and it all took place when Spain’s economy was affected by World War I – “although Spain did not directly take part in the War, the years 1914–1918 shaped its history throughout the 20th century.”4

There is a certain analogy between Ribas’ epic Catalan tale and Bernardo Bertolucci’s Novocento (1976, Twentieth Century, aka 1900). Both directors focused on showing the events of 1 year which caused consequences for the whole of the twentieth century. In Bertolucci’s film, the year 1900 was the moment that determined the future for the characters of the film and for Italy. In Ribas’ take, the future of the Catalonian people, who are a collective character in his trilogy, was decided in 1917. Bertolucci’s monumental spectacle (consisting of two parts – the first that lasts 162 minutes, and the second that lasts 154 minutes) cost $9,000,000. Victoria, being the biggest and the most lavish historical production of the Catalan cinema, stands the comparison with the Italian piece in the aspect of the immense scale. The budget, originally estimated at 300 million pesetas, finally exceeded 450 million.5 Both films tackle the idea of revolution and in both the revolution is postponed until the future – Bertolucci would present “stages of revolutionary utopia”6; for Ribas, the revolution was a dream of an anarcho-syndicalist, who was an idealist and pacifist at the same time. Bertolucci’s political notion can be put into words: “History is created by every man’s desire, but only in the extent to which it is pursued.”7 These words can be also attributed to Jaume Canals (starring Xabier Elorriaga), the main character in Ribas’ trilogy, who evolves from a barely noticeable trade unionist smuggling weapons (in the first sequence of the first part) to the leader of all unionists, concluding an alliance with one of the junteros – lieutenant Rodriguez Haro (portrayed by Helmut Berger), despite all divisions between them, to change the course of history (in the third part). Both in the film by Bertolucci and by Ribas, the protagonist impersonates a form of a romantic fight that is doomed to fail. Bertolucci’s 1900 was a take on the relation between the past and the present, with the ← 21 | 22 → plot developing from 1900 to 1945. It was addressed to the viewer from the 1970s. Ribas’ trilogy refers to the times that, after a series of conflicts, eventually lead to Catalonia being granted full autonomy. It is known from history that Mancomunitat of Catalonia held an assembly of representatives in Barcelona on 21 December 1918 during which a decision was made to act immediately to acquire full autonomy, and on 26 January 1919, a draft of The Statute of the Autonomy was acclaimed.8 But the trilogy was filmed with the perspective of a creator from the post-Franco era: a creator who was aware of the results of Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship (the abolishment of all privileges of the Catalonians in 1925) and of the later consequences of General Francisco Franco’s victory, which started a long-lasting period of dictatorship (all privileges were cancelled in 1939).9

Freedom! A Great Adventure of the Catalan People

The opening shot in Victoria! A Great Adventure of the Catalan People shows the walls of the Montjuic fortress, which is an army base, located on top of a cliff overlooking the sea between the port and the city. The fortress (now Castell de Montjuic) is a notorious prison where political prisoners were being detained and murdered. Currently, the Catalans consider this place as a symbol of the struggle for independence and liberation. The last shot in the film is a close-up on the intertwined hands of three junteros dressed in civil clothes, including Lieutenant Rodriguez, which symbolise the alliance in the struggle for a new Spain.

The first part of the trilogy sets the socio-political situation in Barcelona against the background of the situation in the whole country determined by Spain’s decision to remain neutral in the face of the war in Europe (the decision was declared in Madrid in 1914 by the Prime Minister Eduardo Dato).10 It is accentuated that there are diverse social strata and disproportions in the quality of life between those who benefit from the neutrality – entrepreneurs and bourgeoisie earning fortunes from trade and wealthy aristocrats, and the impoverished social groups who earn a stable income, a salary, like the workers in the trade unions, or a soldier’s pay, in the case of the army. The disproportions can be noticed already in ← 22 | 23 → the first sequence of the film, which takes place by the waterfront in Barcelona. Elegantly dressed members of the high society are leaving the Great Theatre of Catalonia during the “Cinematograph” spectacle, for a more wanton entertainment on the beach. The local inspector Sánchez also enjoys a dissolute company of women of easy virtue who start “a Babylonian bath, Babylonian and shameless.” Local poor men arrive at the waterfront to plunder remnants of a scattered shipwreck where they find loot – shoes that leave imprints creating a “lane” in the sand, and that turns out to be made of paper. At the same time, sheltered by the night, a trade unionist Jaume Canals tries to sneak through the Coast Guard controls as he gets weapons smuggled in a box. By dawn, a strange shape emerging from the sea attracts the attention of a woman standing by the waterfront theatre and as she looks through her binoculars she sees other people, with binoculars as well – a short man in a bowling hat carrying a poster advertising a double session of “Cinematograph” at the Great Theatre of Catalonia (Gran Teatre Ctalunya, Sessio doble de CINEMATOGRAF), men in white suits standing on a balcony of the Casino building, one of them making flash signs, a man in a black tuxedo and a top hat on a bridge, a man who has just finished caressing a woman, and then all of them (still in their gala outfits) gather on the shore and look through their binoculars towards the sea. Someone says: “it must be a sea snake,” another: “No, it’s a whale,” and yet another: “It’s rather a submarine.” Eventually, they recognise: “It is a German submarine. How did it get here?” and they start betting “is it going to shoot or not?” The Chief of the local police, Superintendent Bravo Portillo refuses to believe that the Germans might have entered the neutral waters damaging international relations. When “the observers on Her Majesty’s Services” confirm that they have seen the vessel, he threatens them that they will be detained under the charge of being drugged with cocaine. This “violation of Spain’s neutrality” by the Germans, as one of the men notices, becomes an impulse for exchanging opinions and expressing slogans that illustrate who supports which political party. Someone shouts: “Long live the freedom of trade!”, another: “Long live the allies!”, yet another: “Long live the European empires!”, someone cries, “Long live the democrats!”. And the woman and man who were intimate at night start singing (she in German and he in Spanish) symbolically standing on two sides of a barricade. A worker appears among those “united by emigration” (later it turns out he is a police spy) and accuses the society: “This society is responsible for you being a whore, you being a parasite and you thieves, crooks or smugglers” and then proposes: “War is on the side of those who rule. Let’s overthrow the government and put an end to this war!” The ship in the harbour with the word “NEUTRAL” on its side, the submarine emerging from the sea with the German sailors, and a ← 23 | 24 → small boat carrying a box with weapons transported by Canals and his helpers – all symbolise the line dividing society into germanófilos and aliadófilos, according to their political preferences. The initial sequence of the film is audacious in the way it shows the absurdity of the situation, combining the seriousness of political issues with a dose of sense of humour, which is characteristic of the first part of the trilogy.

The next sequences of the film show Barcelona as the centre of political and social events leading to the decentralisation of power (becoming independent of Madrid). Jaume Canals, a trade unionist and activist, collects weapons for his comrades, because the weapons are “the key to the power that the army has over the city.” They want to conquer “the line of fortifications, from which the vice-king rules Catalonia” and destroy the fortress that the Catalonians have wanted to destroy for a century. He makes a plan to organise a general strike that will prepare the grounds for changes in Spain. Lieutenant Rodríguez Haro, who is a member of the junteros movement, is disappointed with some of the soldiers, because “you cannot identify the whole army and the country with one man” and suggests that there is a need to reform the army to restore the people’s trust in it and so that the people stop blaming the army for everything that is wrong in the country. He expresses his concerns during an aristocratic party where many intellectuals are present, including a Catalan nationalist Carlos Roula who blames Madrid politicians for everything, hates the soldiers, and viciously attacks Rodríguez saying: “It is time you start living only off soldier’s pay and not be supported by rich fiancés like Cristina Luz.” Later, Lieutenant Rodríguez makes an offer to the anarcho-syndicalist Canals to join the forces of the Defence Junta and the trade unionists in a fight for a good cause. This happens after the leader of the Juntas de Defensa (Defence Junta), Colonel Benito Márquez is arrested. Colonel Benito Márquez (played by Francisco Rabal), the chief of the Vergara regiment at the Barcelona garrison and the leader of the junteros in the army, allowed for training that was against the rules and disrespected an order from the military supervisor. When he is summoned to the headquarters, he is ordered by his supervising general to dissolve the juntas, but he refuses to execute it, surrendering to the general as a prisoner. He is arrested for insubordination and transported to the Montjuíc fortress. The colonel tells Rodriguez to respect the law and not to rebel against the given orders – he is more respected among the soldiers than the generals who are not capable of enforcing orders on the army without his support. The soldiers who sympathise with the colonel await his orders. Rodriguez turns to him saying: “Spain needs you,” but he goes to the fortress telling them: “I command you to be obedient and to wear your uniforms ← 24 | 25 → with pride.” It is Rodriguez who starts defining the political aims of the junteros after Márquez’s arrest. Those aims are the dismissal of all generals, creation of the Nation’s Liberation Government, and conciliation with the people. He sees the role of Canals and the alliance with the trade unionists as a means to achieving this last aim: to reconcile soldiers and civilians. This unofficial initiative, supported by the majority of junteros, will be the main theme of the third part of the trilogy. The first part closes with a coalition to overthrow the king and to change the political situation in the country, sealed with a handshake of three junteros.

Antoni Ribas uses a sexual metaphor to minimise the pathos of liberation political ideas pronounced by various social groups. Everyone in the politically diversified society, independently of the social group, represents the same erotic vigour. Eroticism is what unites despite divisions and what defines the temperament of a Catalonian. Sometimes it is bawdy, sometimes deviant, and sometimes touches an obscene note. During the time of pursuit for freedom, eroticism is the only sphere of actual freedom – the liberation from costumes and conventions, which is also a road to social promotion. The shots exhibiting the erotic temperament of the characters are often motivated by the convention of a spectacle and they are used as one of the ways of pointing out Catalan uniqueness. In this sense, an aria in an opera inspires a couple to make love. Police Inspector Sánchez takes part in a public “shameless, Babylonian bath” in the sea accompanied by prostitutes. Canals’ spouses, spending most of the time separated (because love has to give way to the “idea”), give free reign to their passion whenever they meet, regardless of the circumstances (although they are being watched). Some of the scenes take place in the Parallel, where the night-life flourishes and the prostitutes are using their charms to lure the men. Canals, responsible for collecting the weapons for the unionists, although a pacifist by nature, soothes a conflict between a father and his daughter Juanita (debutant Eva Cobo) who has engaged in an affair with her dance teacher, which for her meant a first step in getting away from poverty. And all this is put into the frame of an opera spectacle. Striving for freedom corresponds with an atmosphere of sexual liberation. It is a part of cultural identity. Another facet of this cultural identity can be inferred from the poster held in the opening sequence by the man in the bowling hat, the “Catalonian Méliès” (Gran Teatre Catalunya, Sessio doble de Cinematograf) – it is a hint pointing to the fact that by this time Catalonia already had a film studio (brothers Ricardo and Ramón de Baños established The Royal Films Movie Association in 1916). ← 25 | 26 →

Victory!-2 (The Frenzy of 1917)

In the film Victory!-2 (The Frenzy of 1917), the frivolous atmosphere is even more accentuated and corresponds with the climate of the political frenzy dominating all conflicted sides. As they stroll through the city and discuss how to reinstall order, Superintendent Bravo Portillo and Inspector Apolinar Sánchez get excited about the news like “round, firm, smooth and curvy breasts,” “cassials pills,” or an advertisement “do you remember about my insatiable lust,” and Superintendent Bravo ponders: “We will not know whether there are any revolutionary slogans amongst these advertisements until we get the code. Fortunately, we have some good spies in the police. Our informer says that he knows the key to the code. However, we need to be careful, so that the unionists don’t realise it, because if they did, they would change it.” Barcelona becomes an arena for spies on the services of the corrupted police, which support the government, but, as Bravo says: “the governments change, but the police stay.”

The city is also full of people willing to provide entertainment for the newly arrived German sailors and where the bribed police turn a blind eye on violating international agreements. Pursuant to the slogan: “Good pornography is also an art,” “honourable mothers,” encouraged by the owner of a club, talk their daughters into dancing for the drunk German sailors. When they resist, one of the women suggests to her daughter: “show, only the thigh,” which is overheard and then repeated by the public: “thigh, thigh…” At this point the mother warns – “if you don’t go out, I’ll do the gig myself.” Therefore, plump mature mothers do their frivolous dance as the first ones, and then their innocent daughters, looking like white flowers in white dresses, take their place with full “dignity” as they are encouraged: “show the buttocks, girls, the buttocks” – they gradually uncover everything they can and eventually they start dancing like naked nymphs. One of the German soldiers who used the sexual services in the facility refuses to pay, so the police hold the German government accountable for it, issuing a bill with the title: “expenses for the country and the victory.” The students catch their teacher with a prostitute. Surrounding him, they make a toast to their passed exam (which they are only about to take) [this toast is a hidden hint to a film by José Luis Garci Asignatura Pendiente (Unfinished Business, 1977), which compromised the old – in this case Franco’s era – moral norms. The film was one of the many in the post-Franco period that contested the existing moral order].11← 26 | 27 →

Sheltered by night, the unionists keep collecting the weapons, continuing the preparations for a general strike. The police superintendent knows about the contraband, but prohibits everyone from doing anything about “the vanishing weapons,” because he wants to shift the problem to the military intelligence. In another place, in the evening, an announcer introduces an exciting theatre spectacle: “Ladies and Gentlemen…You are witnessing the greatest controversy that has shaken the foundations of Christianity. Here, in front of you, there it is, the loathed, disputed, defamed, shameless, obscene, plebeian, vulgar, salacious, animalistic, passionate, bawdy and always fantastic…tango.” At this moment a couple of dancers – Juanita and her teacher – start performing tango moves to the choir singing of seminary students (which sounds nothing like any dance music) in front of the public composed of prelates. The dance is interrupted: “This cannot be, my children – one of the prelates says – Tango is danced with passion. It is a hot and passionate dance. Or at least that is what they said…” and encourages the dancers: “Forget about the House of God and think that you are in the most deprived cabaret in the fifth quarter. This is at least what I have heard. Tango does not exist in Latin. We are bound by the anthem to be persistent and to pursue so that the master Millet himself approves of this sinful dance. Let’s not forget that [a quote in Latin:] ‘no one shall say that the Church does not make an effort.’ We also still need an accordion in order to make the diocesan committee understand, what tango is.” The longer the couple dance the Argentinian tango on the floor, the merrier are the smiles on the faces of this atypical audience. The most frenetic and passionate of all dances, tango in this scene looks like taken straight from a Fellini film that perfectly illustrates the absurdity of the surrounding reality.

The police use the services of a spy to prepare a provocation that should enable them to destroy the unionists and Inspector Sánchez kidnaps Canals’ children to get him into a trap. Maria, the mother of Canals’ children (played by Norma Duval), blames him for the disappearance of their children and declares she would claim to take them back, as they should be with their mother and not their father’s mistress Palmira (played by Carme Elias). The two friends now stand against each other, and Maria warns her rival: “Jauma needs to screw some lass from time to time, and as you well know, this is not how he treats the women of his life.” Maria wants to file a lawsuit to strip him of parental rights motivated by the facts that he neglects his family and she is going to marry (for the sake of the children) Mr. Llorenç Vinyes, so that he can take authority over them. When Canals eventually finds Inspector Sánchez to recover his children, the Inspector’s mother tells him that they are sleeping like angels, whereas Canals’ daughter is being sexually assaulted by the Inspector’s brother in an adjacent room. When Canals decides to ← 27 | 28 → open the door to this room using force, Sánchez points a gun at him. “It is a real hunting gun, isn’t it?” Canals asks, making a reference to the memorable film by Carlos Saura The Hunt (La Caza, 1965).12

Earlier, Juanita met Lieutenant Rodriguez Haro at a crossroad (the Y-shape symbolising the choice of the road in life) and foretold him that he would need her help. Haro meets with lieutenant colonel and his supporters, and this meeting shows a division among the soldiers. One fraction supports the coup d’état and liberating colonel Márquez and the members of the High Junta (as long as he is in prison he cannot be defeated) and the other backs coalition with the people (this is the part of the junteros led by Rodriguez). The first group is afraid that the separatists shall exploit the division in the army in their fight for autonomy. Rodriguez declares: “We do not want another coup, but far-reaching reforms. Can’t you see that you are falling into another trap set up by the generals from Madrid?”

Political ideas and main characters of the political plot remain overshadowed by the absurd reality of the second part of trilogy. Colonel Márquez is barely mentioned, Lieutenant Rodriguez gradually matures to take over initiative and a family drama crosses Canals’ unionist strike plans. He is abandoned by the mother of his children who is planning to marry his friend (a unionist turned entrepreneur). There are two closing shots. The first one shows a breakup in the family (the son stays with his mother and her husband-to-be and the daughter stays with her father). In the other there is a watchman with gun.

In the second part of Ribas’ trilogy, the madness of 1917 is illustrated in situations that reach the limits of absurdity. Those were the circumstances that the Catalans had to endure, deriving from both the crisis in the state and the echoes of shocks that shook Europe (war and revolution). The specific take on this historical issue reveals the temperament of a true Catalan, who keeps his sense of humour even confronted with the absurdity of history.

Victory!-3 (Reason and Exultation)

As a matter of fact, Victory! by Antoni Ribas is not only a trilogy, but in composition terms it is based on the triptych scheme. All the parts – except for one retrospection in the third one (when Canals recalls April 1904 when for the ← 28 | 29 → first time he shouted: “Long live the anarchy! Away with the king!” during the visit of the king Alfonso XIII) – present the events in the chronological order. However, the relation between each of the parts indicates it is a triptych. There is a specific correspondence in the arrangement between the threesome’s stories. Ribas’ Victoria! is a set of separate parts, but these parts are also complementary elements of a bigger unit. In the case of a triptych, although the paintings are separated, they are not isolated – they relate between each other. The whole of the triptych should be read simultaneously, not in chronological order. In the case of this triptych trilogy the second, the most shocking part, takes the place of the central piece, translating absurd of history into the language of eroticism. Socio-political situation in Barcelona and the present liberation tendencies dominate the first part. They are illustrated, not solely, but with the use of a sexual metaphor. The third part combines the issues of a big-scale (like making the history) with those that are private, personal (like love and death).

First words uttered in Victory!-3 (Reason and Exultation) is the famous quote: “The die is cast.” Those are said by an officer (Pablo) approaching Lieutenant Rodriguez Haro as he fastens the buttons of Jaume Canals’ uniform. The quote, attributed to Julius Caesar who allegedly said it as he crossed the Rubicon (10 Jan 49 BC), signified the end to an old republican system and the birth of the Roman Empire. Here it refers to the alliance between a part of the liberal junteros and the unionists, a point of no return. Rodriguez, once standing at the crossroads (as is the scene with Juanita and the second lieutenant), now takes an irrevocable decision – he is going to intervene in the course of history. Jaume Canals says: “The unionists think that Barcelona is a bomb and all that it lacks is a fuse and I think that this city is a fuse and the whole country is a bomb.” His companions – unionists who object to the war idea – dress up in military uniforms to hide their identities and help Lieutenant Rodriguez Haro and his supporters in an action of not allowing the order of releasing Márquez from reaching the castle. For the unionists, this theatrical gesture (one of them says he looks like a drummer in an operetta) is a test, checking if they can count on a coalition with the army. Simultaneously, another group of unionists mines the Montjuíc hill to set the fortress on fire. The first ones are climbing up the hill to prevent releasing Márquez, the others are placing dynamite to destroy it, as: “Maybe the people will lose fear and they will feel free seeing how the symbol of oppression crumbles down.” The first group of the unionists fail their mission. As a result, Rodriguez Haro will face expulsion from the army and Jaume Canals will have to seek shelter in the house of his ex-wife’s new husband. ← 29 | 30 →

The political plot is developing from the first part of the trilogy. Now it is completed with the personal perspective – the troubles that started in the second part. The private perspective has a function of a memento mori of its kind. It is developed in grotesque, exaggerated sequences. Three men – a priest, a solicitor, and a doctor – pay their visits to the groom Lloren Vinyes Bajzels before his wedding with Maria Allaga. The first one wants to convince the democrat that he should make his vows before God, and to remind him of his mortality. The second one tells the groom to use the opportunity and write down his last will. The third one visits him because he could never forgive himself if he was not present by his deathbed. The wedding is a pretext to remind of death. The priest says: “Those, who believe, shall not perish but have eternal life, but you are going to die, Lloren Vinyes Bajzels…” and the former unionist who became an entrepreneur and a democrat, thinking about the future, pities that “It may turn out that peace in Europe will lead to our fall or to a civil war.” This far-reaching intuition of Vinyes represents the perspective on history adopted in the film.

Maria and Llorenc’s wedding party coincides with the great explosion. One of Canals’ companions tells him: “We have lit the fuse of revolution” as he points to the Montjuíc castle and the hill shaking from a series of explosions. Although one plan failed (Márquez, afraid of the possible division of the country, did not join separatists and dissidents), the other one worked, strengthening the myth of Agrato Vidal, a fantom anarchist – in the reality Jaume Canals. Two months after the wedding the solicitor, the doctor, and the priest come again to Llorenc Vinyes’ house. The first one comes to write down the last will of the dying man, according to his wish. The doctor is told that Vinyes is too ill to talk to him. The third one follows Vinyes who has got up from the deathbed and went out to the streets so that the death would have to chase him. Before his departure, he calls for Canals and explains that he married Maria so that his fortune would not be taken over by the government, but it would be inherited by Maria and her children. This dimension of the plot is completed with two deeds of love: Juanita manages to use some “influential acquaintances” to close the case against Rodriguez and she returns him to Cristina Luz, and Vinyes leaves all his fortune to Maria, which brings the whole family together. In the end of this sequence of grotesque situations, the Police Superintendent Bravo Portillo is shot in the street (on 15 September 1919), Colonel Márquez is dismissed from the army (February 1918), and Maria and Canals visit the astronomical observatory one day before Primo de Rivera overthrows the government (on 12 September 1923). In the guide to the observatory there is information that one of the planets is called Barcelona, so “we have a second Barcelona in the space.” And Canals–Agrato Vidal asserts: ← 30 | 31 → “Our problems are small and insignificant when seen from the perspective of the Universe.” His last words in the film seem like a message: “I am sure of one thing though. We cannot allow others to impose their customs, language and laws on us. There is no one who can tell us we shouldn’t be ourselves.” This is a claim to maintain cultural identity. Although it is said the day before installing military dictatorship by Primo de Rivera, this “dream of autonomy” will be only fulfilled in the post-Franco period.

“The dice is cast” quote, inaugurating the third part, makes the viewer realise that what is present (the autonomy granted after General Franco’s death in 1975 and the introduction of a new constitution in Spain in 1978 – the state that was when the film was being produced) many years ago was only the future. The third part presents alternative historical paths for Catalonia and the “victory” – the destruction of the Montjuíc fortress – is a visions of a desired “past” and partly a utopian future (the fortress was never destroyed, but nevertheless it remains as a symbol of the once oppressive rule). In the third part, Antoni Ribas showed the stages of a revolutionary utopia (also through the means of a grotesque exaggeration of the action) with “Barcelona in space” at the dawn of Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship.


Victoria!-1, 2, 3 is the biggest historical production in the local Catalan cinematography. It conveys the vivid culture and temperament of the Catalan people. The seriousness of the theme is mixed with a grotesque perspective. The pathos is minimised by remaining ironically distanced from the situation. It tells about the history from the present-day perspective. It shows that Catalan identity is based most of all on the language and culture and the historical motifs. It refers to “personal mythology” to present the regional history. As a super-production representing cinematography of a micro-region, it stands as a symbol of the domination of Madrid. It is also an evidence of a “new freedom of expression”13 that came with the fall of Franco’s dictatorship. ← 31 | 32 →


Antoni Ribas estrenó ‘Victòria!’, la mayor superproducción de la historia del cine catalán, El Pais 10.09.1983: (15.09.2016) retrieved:

de Lara, Manuel T., Baruque, Julio V., Ortiz Antonio D. Historia Hiszpanii [History of Spain]. Trans. Szymon Jędrusiak. Kraków: TAiWPN UNIVERSITAS, 1997.

Helman, Alicja. Ten smutek hiszpański. Konteksty twórczości filmowej Carlosa Saury. [This Spanish sadness. Contexts of the film works by Carlos Saura]. Kraków: Rabid, 2005.

Historia Katalonii [History of Catalonia], Historia Katalonii/Cules/FC Barcelona Online, (15.09.2016) retrieved:

Kinder, Marsha. Blood Cinema. The Reconstruction of National Identity in Spain. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993.

Larraz, Emmanuel. Le cinéma espagnol des origines à nos jours. Paris: Les Éditions du CERF, 1986.

Magny, Joël. “Polityczny wymiar twórczości Bernarda Bertolucciego od Przed rewolucją do Wieku XX.” [The political aspect of Bernardo Bertolucci works from Before the Revolution to Twentieth Century], trans. Tadeusz Szczepański In: Bernardo Bertolucci w opinii krytyki zagranicznej [Bernardo Bertolucci in opinion of foreign critique], ed. Tadeusz Miczka. Warszawa: Filmoteka Narodowa, 1993, pp. 111–133.

Seguin, Jean-Claude. Histoire du cinéma espagnol. Paris: Éditions Nathan, 1994.

1 Jean-Claude Seguin, Histoire du cinéma espagnol (Paris: Éditions Nathan, 1994), p. 90.

2 See Manuel Tuñón de Lara, Julio Valdeón Baruque, Antonio Domínguez Ortiz, Historia Hiszpanii [History of Spain], trans. Szymon Jędrusiak, (Kraków: TAiWPN UNIVERSITAS, 1997), p. 522–544.

3 Manuel Tuñón de Lara, Julio Valdeón Baruque, Antonio Domínguez Ortiz, Historia Hiszpanii, p. 522.

4 de Lara, Baruque, Ortiz, Historia Hiszpanii, p. 522.

5 “Antoni Ribas estrenó ‘Victòria!’, la mayor superproducción de la historia del cine catalán,” El Pais (10.09.1983): 15 Sep. 2016,

6 Joël Magny, “Polityczny wymiar twórczości Bernarda Bertolucciego od Przed rewolucją do Wieku XX” [The political aspect of Bernardo Bertolucci works from Before the Revolution to Twentieth Century], in: Bernardo Bertolucci w opinii krytyki zagranicznej [Bernardo Bertolucci in the opinion of foreign critique], ed. Tadeusz Miczka (Warszawa: Filmoteka Narodowa, 1993), p. 130.

7 Magny, “Polityczny wymiar twórczości Bernarda Bertolucciego,” p. 130.

8 de Lara, Baruque, Ortiz, Historia Hiszpanii, p. 529.

9 The parliament and Generalitat were liquidated, Catalan language was banned in public places, statute was suspended, national symbols were prohibited, which initiated conspiracy – the Catalan National Front was established (Front Nacional de Catalunya). Retrieved: “Historia Katalonii” [History of Catalonia], Historia Katalonii/Cules/FC Barcelona, 15 Sep. 2016,, p. 5.

10 de Lara, Baruque, Ortiz, Historia Hiszpanii, p. 524.

11 Emmanuel Larraz, Le cinéma espagnol des origines à nos jours (Paris: Les Éditions du CERF, 1986), p. 248.

12 The Hunt by Saura was showing the times of the Spanish civil war as a source of a national trauma; the rabbit hunting taking place in an empty arrayo has the function of “masking the murderous instincts.” Alicja Helman, Ten smutek hiszpański. Konteksty twórczości filmowej Carlosa Saury [This Spanish sadness. Contexts of the film works by Carlos Saura] (Kraków: Rabid, 2005), p. 56.

13 Marsha Kinder, Blood Cinema. The Reconstruction of National Identity in Spain [8. Micro- and Macroregionalism in Catalan Cinema, European Coproductions, and Global Television], University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles 1993, p. 395.