Lucia: History and Film in Revolutionary Cuba
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 5, Number 1, February 1975
- pp. 6-16
- Additional Information
movie-goers generally do not know how to analyze film in any intelligent manner, and that when some tentative techniques for understanding cinema are suggested, the viewer complains that such mental probing wrecks the story line or the mood of the motion picture. Or, the film is considered to be entertainment and nothing more. Landau considers such comments defensive, "the need for Americans to mask their true feelings about their existence."( 1 3 Brecht questioned the value ofa technically competent production, "when it illuminated false and childish representations of the world...? Of what use was the whole box of magic tricks when it could only offer us artificial substitutes for actual experiences?" (14) The filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather and The Conversation) indirectly answered Brecht saying: "Understand one thing.... Movies are all made the same way, and the reason they're made the same way is because the audiences want them that way [emphasis added]." (15) This is the situation against which the Landaus are launching their struggle. It will undoubtedly be a long, hard fight in a country where movie myths seem to serve an important social function. LUCIA: HISTORY AND FILM IN REVOLUTIONARY CUBA By John G. Mraz Mr. Mraz is studying "Filmic History" in an independent Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program at the University ofCalifornia, Santa Barbara. He has previously published in The History Teacher. Lucia, (1) directed by Humberto Solas, (2) is of crucial significance in considering both the portrayal of history in the feature film and the prominence attached to such a portrayal in Cuban cinema. Films in Revolutionary Cuba are seen to be instruments of decolonization. As such, their historical emphasis reflects that nation's struggle to free itself from the residue of distortion left by centuries of colonial and neocolonial subjugation. History, as the collective repository of the common Cuban past, is of primary importance to such a task, for it provides the island's people with the fundamental elements ofnational identity-a sine qua non to a society in the process of decolonization and the formation ofan authentic national culture. Steeped in history, Lucia exemplifies this orientation as Solas presents us with individuals whose conflicts and problems derive, as they do in everyday reality, from their concrete historical situation. The film is divided into three completely separate segments: "Lucia 1895," "Lucia 1933," and "Lucia 196_." Change in historical context from segment to segment in terms ofrace relations, class relations, sex role definition, and foreign penetration are expressed in their impact on the social relations of the film's characters. Further, Solas uses cinematic technique and music, in the form ofboth segment and montage themes, to underscore the historical dynamism expressed in those relations. Throughout, the extraordinarily subtle handling ofthe material prevents the film from slipping into dogmatic sterility. Luci'a-1895 is a member of the white, highly Europeanized, aristocratic colonial bourgeoisie. As a virgin approaching middle age in a repressive and male-dominated society, she anxiously awaits the man who must complete her social existence. The Europeanization ofthe Cuban upper class in 1895 (graphically outlined in the opening scene by the envy displayed toward the new Parisian husband and hat ofa returning acquaintance) dictates Lucia's choice of a Spaniard, Rafael, as that man. The alienation evident in Lucia's situation, however, realizes itself in her social relations. For, her idealized "love" for Rafael, with its tragic consequences, is made possible not only because ofthe superficiality of friendships which permit no confidences, but because of her refusal to listen to the warnings of Fernandina. Femandina, deranged as the result of rape by Spanish soldiers and impoverished, is Lucia's counterpart and the symbol of authentic Cuba. An object of ridicule among the women of Lucia's class, her timely warning about Rafael, actually a Spanish spy, is ignored and Lucia is duped into betraying her brother, an anti-colonialist guerrilla engaged in the struggle for independence from Spain. For this betrayal, Lucia kills Rafael, and in this final act (visualized in the "still-framed" ending shot of Femandina's hand touching Lucia's head) links herself to nationalist Cuba. The main thrust of the cinematic techniques used by Solas in "Lucia...