- El Diputado
- The Member of parliament (1979)Eloy de la Iglesia's El diputado is emblematic of a certain line of development in Spanish cinema during the Transition years. The end of censorship dominated the scene, and it was important to focus on issue-led films that dealt with matters forbidden until then. Eroticism, violence, the past, and politics were privileged motifs, and El diputado boldly gestured toward all of them. With the earlier Los placeres ocultos (Hidden Pleasures, 1977), it forms a diptych of De la Iglesia films centered on homosexuality. Los placeres ocultos had been written at the end of Francoism, under apprehensions of censorship, so for the director El diputado was an opportunity to set his central theme in a wider context that could take for granted the new freedoms achieved with the 1978 Constitution. And this wider context included almost everything that was going on in Spain's troubled streets circa 1979: prostitution, the crisis of the Left, street violence, engaging with the past, fascist thugs, and the discovery of sexual freedom.El diputado dared to articulate all of these elements, and the result was undeniably sensational (critics claimed it was a morbid interest for the forbidden that made De la Iglesia's films so popular). Still, if one concentrates on the central story of a rising star of the political left, who finally discovers love and decides to come out of the closet as a gay man in spite of the homophobia around him, it was well written and had political and cultural implications never before explored in Spanish film (and only seldom abroad). The main character is played by José Sacristán, and there are no external signs of homosexuality: De la Iglesia is interested, in a time dominated by strong (homophobic) assumptions on what a homosexual was like, in projecting an idea of complete "normality." Narrated in flashback, Roberto tells audiences how he discovered his inclinations but kept them secret, and even married his friend Carmen (Maria Luisa San José). Fascist opponents decide to blemish his reputation by outing him just as he is about to take on higher responsibilities within the party. The notion of a married, closeted homosexual who could potentially become the president of the Spanish parliament was unimaginable at the time, and even today seems an odd proposal. To bait him, the Fascists put in his path curly-haired cherub Juanito (José Luis Alonso). But what is little more than an exchange of sex for money at the beginning will become a full-blown emotional relationship that forces Roberto to reconsider his life. When Juanito is murdered in his flat, Roberto feels he has to come out before the truth is revealed.
Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema. Alberto Mira. 2010.