Rural drama

Rural drama
   Spain remained a mostly rural country until the 1960s. Isolated farms and villages, with a culture centered around small community life and old traditions, and an economy based on agriculture, were effective backgrounds for stories representing essential Spanish culture. Rural drama is one of the stronger traditions in Spanish literary and cinematic mythologies. In a number of silent films, the countryside is used as the setting for a particular brand of drama that was perceived to be more deeply Spanish than that evoked by more generic, urban locations. For instance, whereas in urban contexts the old ideologies concerning women's honor were slowly disappearing, they seemed to remain alive in rural cultures. La aldea maldita (The Cursed Village, Florián Rey, 1930) is just one of the titles that represent this rural view of life, and the film has some of the elements of the village as a symbolic locus—honor and jealousy, the struggle with nature, the corrupting call of the city—that would be developed in an important series of films through the 1930s, 1940s, and even the 1950s that exalted rural life.
   Films like Surcos (Burrows, José Antonio Nieves Conde, 1951) add a social context to the distinction between village and city life, but this was actually frowned upon by the authorities. Images of the countryside had to be idealized, depleted of any social element, although not necessarily rendered apolitical. Two rural dramas of the 1950s directed by Manuel Mur Oti are of particular interest for their attempt to create stylized tragedy rather than social realism: Condenados (Condemned, 1953) and Orgullo (Pride, 1955). In most films of the 1950s and 1960s, the Spanish countryside was represented increasingly as the reserve of preferred traditional values and Spanish essences. Such exaltation became one of the key aspects of a certain strand in desarrollismo films, like the Paco Martínez Soria comedies (for instance, the aptly titled La ciudad no es para mí [ The City Is Not For Me, Pedro Lazaga, 1966 ]) in which the country hick must sort out his family's problems created by the challenges of modern life.
   Rural backgrounds have remained a way of creating effective drama in Spanish cinema, as if a sense of tragedy remained alive to surface boldly during the Transition in a series of films including Furtivos (Poachers, José Luis Borau, 1975), Demonios en el jardín (Demons in the Garden, Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón, 1982), Los santos inocentes (The Holy Innocents, Mario Camus, 1984), Tasio (Montzo Armendáriz, 1984), El aire de un crimen (Hint of a Crime, Antonio Isasi-Isasmendi, 1988), and El disputado voto del señor Cayo (The Disputed Vote of Mr. Cayo, Antonio Giménez Rico, 1986). The social and political dimension of rural life becomes more prominent: the murder of the Señorito in Los santos inocentes, for instance, is an effect of power structures and can be perceived as vengeance for the character's arrogant behavior. In recent years, rural drama has experienced a resurgence, as evidenced by a series of very remarkable films including Secretos del corazón (Secrets of the Heart, Montxo Armendáriz, 1997), Julio Medem's Vacas (Cows, 1991) and Tierra (Earth, 1996), La lengua de las mariposas (Butterfly Tongue, José Luis Cuerda, 1999), Flores de otro mundo (Flowers from Another World, Icíar Bollaín, 1999), El séptimo día (The Seventh Day, Carlos Saura, 2004), La noche de los girasoles (The Night of the Sunflowers, Jorge Sánchez Cabezudo, 2006), and La soledad (Solitude, Jaime Rosales, 2007), a recent Goya award-winning film that plays on the opposition between rural and city life.
   The use of the rural mythologies in some films by Pedro Almodóvar deserves special mention: the director came from rural La Mancha and early in his career became an urbanite. Still, a certain (ironic?) nostalgia for rural life features prominently as the solution for his characters in a series of films including ¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto!! (What Have I Done to Deserve This? 1984), ¡Átame! (Tie Me Up!, Tie Me Down!, 1990), La flor de mi secreto (Flower of my Secret, 1995), and Volver (2006). The atavistic spirit of rural Spain continues to pull the strings of character's fates.

Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. . 2010.

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