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Reviewed by:
  • Benito Pérez Galdós en el cine mexicano: literatura y cine
  • Alrick C. Knight Jr.
John H. Sinnigen . Benito Pérez Galdós en el cine mexicano: literatura y cine. México, D.F.: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2008. 360 pp.

The ever-expanding studies dedicated to Benito Pérez Galdós resist generalizing, and one heartening and original development is John H. Sinnigen's study of cinematic productions of a number of Galdós' novels. Professor Sinnigen achieves with insight and eloquence his stated aim of presenting "una parcial y fragmentaria visión lineal de la historia y del cine mexicano desde el optimism del 'milagro mexicano, y de la 'época de oro' hasta los gritos de desesperación del fin del milenio" (34). The well-motivated framing device he employs is based on the films that, as he states, "tienen sus raíces en la 'época de oro' [mexicana]," that is, from roughly 1936 to the end of the 1950s. Professor Sinnigen sets out to summarize and analyze eight of Galdós' novels (each constituting a book chapter) that were subsequently made into movies—El abuelo (1897); La loca de la casa (1892); Doña Perfecta (1876); Misericordia (1897); Realidad (1889); Lo prohibido (1884); and Nazarín (1895). (As Professor Sinnigen makes clear, Luis Buñuel brought this last novel to the screen (1958), which later inspired another adaption, Arturo Ripstein's "El evangelio de la maravillas" [1998]).

The energy of Professor Sinnigen study is rooted in the reception in Mexico of the cinematic adaptations of Galdós' novels, and not in Galdos' novels or in Mexican cinema per se. This comparative analysis of the novels and films reveals an emphasis not only on the meaning each generates within its own temporal and ideological context, but how each, in isolation, can be understood as national allegories, each with its own unique signification. This last dimension is likely to be the most appealing aspect to the reader. For example, he cites the ending of the novel Misericordia as significantly different from that of the film. While the novel, according to Professor Sinnigen, reconciles with notable optimism the broad differences between Benina and Juliana (charity versus the law, the spirit versus the material), the film excludes this entire scene. Benina is not an evangelical figure, there is no opposition or reconciliation charity and the law, and therefore we are not led to believe that the future holds any hope. This and other differences lead Professor Sinnigen to conclude that "este cambiado final podría aludir al materialismo, egoísmo y autoritarismo de las clases dominantes y medias mexicanas en la época del filme, y/o a la represiva división de clases del franquismo en España [...]." (156-57)

Professor Sinnigen provides quite a lot of (for many scholars of Galdós) new material culled from newspaper articles, academic journals and scholarly books published primarily in Mexico. While those interested in the ways in which the Canarian author is viewed by Latin-American circles may find Sinnigen's biographical and professional comments on Mexican filmmakers to be excessively lengthy, the rest of the abovementioned material is valuable in its ability to provide insight into how and why others saw fit to [End Page 148] adopt and adapt the writings of a person who was always bound primarily to the issues of his own day and his own country.

For those familiar with Galdós' interest in history, society, politics, human psychology and the role of women, Professor Sinnigen's emphasis on sociohistorical, psychoanalytical and feminist approaches will seem fitting. His approach to the seven novels includes a sociobiographical context, an analytical synopsis, and an interpretive commentary which discusses the differences and similarities between the novels and the films, while presenting the reader with a host of posters, film stills, photos of both Galdós and his period (first-edition novels, manuscripts) as well as images of Mexican newspaper reviews, announcements of debuts, film still-shots, and actors who protagonized these films.

Literary criticism often becomes so specialized or downright jejune that it sacrifices usefulness for minutiae. Professor Sinnigen's study is meticulously researched, and...


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