Mashup: Literature and Film

The Phantasmagoric Presence of the Spanish Civil War in Contemporary (Audio)visual and Literary Arts

  1. Free Writing: During one minute make a list of all the differences that you can think of that exist between literature and cinema.
  2. Two Phantasmagoric Visions.

El espíritu de la colmena (The Spirit of the Beehive) by Víctor Erice (1973). Ana’s encounter with Frankenstein.

La plaza del diamante (The Time of the Doves) by Mercè Rodoreda (1962). Natalia enters a church.

“Everyone else knelt down, and as I looked at them kneeling I forgot to kneel myself and the lady also remained standing up, maybe because she couldn’t kneel, and they brought the incense around and as it spread I saw the little balls on top of the altar. A mountain of little balls a bit to one side in front of a bunch of golden lilies, and the mountain of little balls kept growing with new ones being born beside the others, very tightly packed and looking like soap bubbles all piled up on top of the other and that mountain of little balls kept growing and maybe the priest saw them too because he opened his arms and put his hands on his head as if to say “Holy Virgin!” and I looked at the people and I turned around to look at the ones behind me and they all had their heads down and couldn’t see the balls, so many of them were spilling off the altar and soon they’d reach the feet of the praying altar boys. And those balls that had started out looking like white grapes were slowly turning pink and then red. And they shone brighter and brighter (…) Nothing was alive: only the balls that kept spreading and had turned into blood with the smell of blood drowning out the smell of incense. Nothing but the smell of blood, which is the smell of death, and no one else saw what I saw because everyone had their heads down. And above those far-off voices that I couldn’t understand a chant of angels rose up, but it was a chant of angry angels who scolded the people and told them they were standing before the souls of all the soldiers who’d been killed in the war.” (149-50, translation by David H. Rosenthal)

a. Literary Analysis. Identify at least two literary devices (rhetorical elements, symbols, etc.) that appear in this fragment and explain how they reflect the protagonists’ perspective and experiences.

For example, in this fragment we can see that Rodoreda resorts to polysyndenton (repeated use of conjunctions). What might that convey?

b. Film Analysis. Name and describe at least two technical elements (sound, type of shot, lighting, composition, etc.) of the clip and how it relates to the meaning of the scene.

c. Contextualization. Are there any historical references in any of these texts? Why do you think there are/aren’t?

d. Comparison. Can you see any parallelisms between the clip and the fragment? What do they have in common?

e. Adaptation.

I. Choose one characteristic of the literary text – How would you translate this into the audiovisual language?

II. And vice versa – How would you transfer an audiovisual element to the literary medium?

f. Interpretation. Erice told an anecdote about the filming of the scene, when Ana (the “real” Ana Torrent, the actress interpreting the character of Ana in the movie) encountered the actor characterized as Frankenstein:

“When Ana arrived we were having dinner. Frankenstein was there too and he was eating fried eggs. All of a sudden, Ana realized that the monster was there and, startled, she jumped into the arms of whoever was closest (…). She had a panic attack. Frankenstein didn’t stop smiling and the girl didn’t stop crying. It was an extraordinary moment. After a while, Ana and the monster started talking. She then asked the fundamental question: ‘Why did you kill the girl?’ I hope that the film in some way answered this question.” (my translation, qtd. in García, n.p.).

I. Why was this “an extraordinary moment”?

II. Do you think the film answered this question? If so, what would be the answer?

References

Erice, Víctor, dir. El espíritu de la colmena. Video Mercury Films, 2006.

García, Rocío. “Víctor Erice: ‘Lo mejor de El espíritu de la colmena no está en sus imágenes’”. El País. 23 de septiembre de 2003.

Rodoreda, Mercè. La plaza del diamante. Barcelona: Edhasa, 2009. 

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