- The Films of Elías Querejeta: A Producer of Landscapes by Tom Whittaker
Tom Whittaker’s The Films of Elías Querejeta: A Producer of Landscapes is the first English-language book to focus specifically on the work of the critically acclaimed Spanish film producer Elías Querejeta. In addition to providing vital scholarship on Querejeta’s filmmaking career, Whittaker’s book makes a unique contribution to the field of film studies through its intimate exploration of landscape and space in Spanish cinema. Building on the work of existing criticism from film theorists such as Katherine Kovacs, Steven Marsh, and Paul Julian Smith, Whittaker distinguishes his study of Querejeta from rather more empirical texts such as the Spanish books El cine de Elías Querejeta, un productor singular (1986) by Juan Hernández Les and Elías Querejeta: La produccíon como discurso (1996) by Jesús Angulo, Carlos F. Heredero, and José Luis Rebordinos, innovatively contextualizing Querejeta’s films through critical theory and, most interestingly, philosophical inquiry.1
Ostensibly, the structure of the book consists of six chapters that combine a chronological analysis of Querejeta’s career with distinct theoretical approaches to particular elements of his work; through this particular methodology Whittaker is able to fully address the complex enigma that Querejeta poses as an industrialist and auteur, producer, and “creator.”2 Here, Whittaker makes a compelling and persuasive case for Querejeta as one of the most industrious icons of modern Spanish cinema.
While Querejeta is well known as the producer of fifty-nine features, including the seminal films The Spirit of the Beehive (Carlos Saura, 1973), Raise Raven (Carlos Saura, 1975), and Barrío (Fernando León, 1998), and cowriter of twenty-two screenplays, few critics have drawn attention to [End Page 179] the significance of his involvement in the evolution of contemporary Spanish cinema and its documentation of the “dramatic historical and social transformations of Spain through the production of space.”3 As Whittaker makes clear, Querejeta’s particular evocation of space, both cinematic and geographical, articulates a certain form of resistance to hegemony and systems of power, and it is this precise dimension of Querejeta’s aesthetic that urgently demands closer attention. The book’s title thus aptly refers to the ways in which landscapes not only are diegetically represented by Querejeta (also beautifully called to mind through Whittaker’s cover image) but also are produced, refracted, and reconfigured. Indeed, for Whittaker, Querejeta’s films mobilize the Spanish landscape as “a dynamic space of modernity”; his artistic sensibility cultivates a topographical perception of Spain that is ethically implicated and wholly attentive to the specificities, and intricacies, of Spanish culture.4
The Films of Elías Querejeta, therefore, not only is an in-depth study of one of Spain’s most prolific film producers, but also is finely tuned to the broader concern with spatiality currently at the heart of contemporary discourses in film studies. For Whittaker, Querejeta develops “a particularly spatial visual language … [;] the organization of the frame, and the cinematic and geographic spaces that it depicts and creates, provide a central means through which to tease out the industrial, social, political and, most crucially, geographical contexts and meanings” of key films produced by Querejeta.5 Whittaker adopts a methodology that combines reflection on the authorial and cultural issues surrounding the role of the film producer with illuminating theoretical engagement. He brings the work of several critical theorists to bear on the production of space in Querejeta’s films, leading to fascinating new perspectives. In chapter 1, “Geographies of Anxiety,” Whittaker traces the development of Querejeta’s early career, drawing on Henri Lefebvre’s writing on social space to show how the production of landscapes in Querejeta’s collaborations invariably enacts a clear and trenchant critique of Spain’s “miracle years.”6 Chapter 2, “Spaces of Violence,” utilizes the notion of the time-image articulated by Gilles Deleuze, exploring the cityscapes of Querejeta’s films as “unstable terrains of social and political struggle.”7 Chapters...