Early Spanish cinema lagged behind when compared to countries such as France, England and Italy. Because the rise of cinema also coincided with the end of World War 1 and burgeoning French film, Spain were not able to attain the technology needed to match the standards of French film. Due to this, Spain had to look at different methods of filming but was restricted by Franco and his extreme regime. Because of this, Spanish cinema struggled to thrive and so many Spanish directors made their way to France to film. The most notable of such was Luis Buñuel who began his career pre-Franco in Madrid and aimed to use his artistic ability to attack the church and bourgeoisie with surrealism, much like the artist Salvador Dali. Once the Spanish Civil War began, Buñuel moved to France to produce his first short film: Un Chien Andalou.
The characteristics of Spanish film were mimicked from International films, very much so from Film Noir specifically. Spanish films would follow a subversive man looking for justice because of how macho he is, a femme fatale character who intends to thwart the male lead, malevolence that simmers under the surface and dry humour. They also incorporated anti-fascist tones, androcentrism, which is where the viewpoint is centred on a males view, and melodrama. Melodrama is a key characteristic of Spanish cinema, and can even be seen in TV shows on Netflix like Jane the Virgin, which mimics the over the top dramatization which is so popular in Telenovelas.
Although Spanish cinema is in its infancy compared to other countries, they still produced fantastic films and directors. Below are the top 5 films from Spanish cinema.
1. Bienvenido Mr Marshall (1953, Louis García Berlanga)
This film centres on the arrival of North Americans to a small town, and how the town excitedly prepares for this arrival. Featuring a deaf and mischievous mayor and an Andalusian singer, the film certainly shows a comedic side of Spanish cinema. It is also a social commentary on stereotypes of both Americans and Spaniards, and a criticism of life in 1950s Spain. Held to be a masterpiece of Spanish Cinema.
2. El Último Cuplé (1957, Juan De Orduña)
Translated as The Last Torch Song this is a musical drama following two lovers. One is a world famous singer and the other is her young lover, who is tragically killed. The singer becomes a recluse and is only convinced out of this by her old manager. She takes to the stage once again and dies after her appearance.
3. Jamón Jamón (1991, Bigas Luna)
Penelope Cruz stars in this film, marking her debut into feature films. The film focuses on a handsome young man who works in a corporate job at the factory his mother owns. He falls for a blue-collar woman working on the lingerie line in the factory. He plans to marry her but his mother refuses and plans to honey trap the blue-collar woman with a hunky man. However, the mother then falls for him herself. The ultimate Spanish rom-com.
4. Dos Otros – The Others (2001), Dir.: Alejandro Amenábar
A classic film all over the world, this is the first film to receive a Spanish film award without a single word of Spanish spoken in it. Following the story of a devoutly religious mother who moves her children to England during WW2, she is waiting for her husband to return from work whilst also protecting her children from a rare photosensitivity disease. Soon however, supernatural happenings become another thing she must protect her children from.
5. El Laberinto del Fauno (2006). Dir.: Guillermo Del Toro
Another classic Spanish produced film, Pan’s Labyrinth is set in 1944 with focus on the war. In Spain, a troop of soldiers have been sent out to a forest to flush out any rebels. They are led by Captain Vidál, who is a murdering sadist. He brings his new wife and her daughter. She witnesses her step-father’s sadism and is drawn deep into Pan’s Labyrinth, inhabited by mythical creatures.