Reasons and the country’s girlfriend to perform characters

Reasons
why I decided to analyse this film

 

Of all of the
child prodigies that emerged during post-war in Spain stands out Marisol; not
only for her work as an actress and singer but also due to her personal
circumstances -mainly during her last period as a public figure-. During her
cinematographic career, Marisol starred in films such as Ha llegado un ángel (Luis Lucía, 1961), Tómbola (Luis Lucía, 1962), and La
corrupción de Chris Miller (Juan Antonio Bardem, 1972); featured films
popularly known by the public that made possible the creation of the legend she
is today. Nevertheless, as any child prodigy, Marisol’s child exploitation is
hardly a secret; as she had to remain silent for two stages of her career.

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It is almost
certainly that Marisol films capture the country’s charisma of the era. As a
matter of fact, the first screening of Tómbola coincided with Francoist Dictatorship
Sixth Government, a time when the country experienced an economic development
due to the height of tourism, and also Spanish cinema was affected by Film Censorship. Thus, film producers where focused on
the making of films framed by “la españolada” and popular cinema; what led to
the standing circulation of continuist films, as directors used to repeat the
same formulas endlessly.

However, it
is Marisol’s transition to Pepa Flores
what inspired me the most in the research of this paper; as this woman’s life
and career might be well-considered an enlightenment of, at least, forty years
of Spanish history of the 20th Century. 
Thus, her final transition to Pepa Flores, could be compared to the
country’s transition to democracy after Franco’s death in 1975: In real life,
after the death of the warlord, she publicly declared herself militant of the
PCE, later Communist party, began fighting for the ideals of Marxism and
defending those who had been silenced, and, most drastically, even starred on
the cover of Inverviú magazine
–entirely naked-; while in film, she stopped playing the exemplary child and
the country’s girlfriend to perform characters of stronger women with flaws
like Juana in Los días del pasado (Mario
Camus, 1977). Besides, Los días del
pasado happens to be one of the first films in the history of Spanish
cinema to openly talk about the losing side and its experience during post-war;
representing a country that would not longer remain silent, as the actress
would not either. In other words, the
figure of Marisol might be considered an epitome of the country during its
Late-Franco and Transition periods.

Moreover, Los días del pasado also happens to be one
of Mario Camus’ best rated films, and yet mostly unknown for the public, due to
the difficulties of the film’s distribution in a time when democracy had not
been set yet. Thus, the director presents a film enclosed in the metaphoric cinema genre, which
features a strong antifrancoist tone, focusing on the collective memory, family
and time, and seeks for reflection in the audience.   

 

topic

 

In a time
when Spanish artists, and the country itself, had more opportunities to speak
out about topics that had been censored for almost forty years, Camus directed,
and co-wrote alongside Antonio José Betancor, a film that represents both of
the crucial aspects of the country from 1939 to 1975: emigration and the
antifrancoist guerrilla. In other words, the director regains the losing side and
the ravages of Spanish Civil War; that is to say, those who were erased from
culture and society itself for thinking the opposite to the Francoist regime. The
director recovered the country’s recent memory in a film that talks about
Francoism from another perspective, from the angle of the opposition, and that frankly
considers itself “antifrancoist.” Hence, the
nation experienced its own awakening, rejecting to keep pretending and hiding
its own reality. At that time, the opposition fought for openness, as well
as criticism of recent history and those features where certainly being adopted
by Spanish cinema as many filmmakers took a chance on social change in the
content of their work. Through analysing Mario Camus’ Los días del pasado (1977) this paper aims to highlight Spain’s
change of paradigm during the country’s transition to democracy.  

 

Presentation
and explanation of the sources

 

Explanation of the work methodology and
thesis

 

This paper is
based on a qualitative study of the sources. As my goal is to compare Los días del pasado to Spain’s situation
in the 1970’s and its transition to democracy, I aim to study a single film: Los días del pasado (Mario Camus, 1977),
as it reflects Spain’s current change of heart during its transition to
democracy as well as the country’s new desire to speak out against their
reality -what they had not do for almost forty years.  My first move was to study Marisol’s career in
order to further compare it to the country’s position. That is how I found
Camus’ film; which I chose for its antifrancoist tone and its inner desire to
represent those who were erased from culture for years during the dictatorship.

Then, I would study Camus’ film, in order to understand and analyse a film that
partly stands out due to its lack of dialogue. However, as there is not much written about Los
días del pasado, I decided to start doing research about his director,
Mario Camus, and Spanish cinema of the transition. Thus, I found Jose Luis
Sanchez’s work on the director called Mario
Camus; in which, the author briefly talks about each of the films the
filmmaker worked on. In addition, I looked for data in RTVE database systems
for video and other sources, and luckily I found an episode of Historia de nuestro cine focused on Los días del pasado, in which they
talked about the film’s repercussion when it opened. On the other hand, in
terms of my research of cinema of the transition, I found interesting books on
the topic, such as La representacio?n de la mujer en el cine espan?ol
de la
Transition by Amanda Castro García,
which focuses on Spanish women representation in those films.

 

CONTEXT

 

The death of the dictator in
1975 left the country in a context of economic crisis and political unrest. It was a time
of change for a country coming out of a military dictatorship, that was
experiencing its transition to democracy. Thus, Mario Camus started writing
a script for Los días del pasado
along with Antonio Betancor in 1976. That year belongs to a period of labour
and social unrest repressed by Carlos Arias Navarro’s Government.  During those days, clandestine parties such as
PSOE and PCE, leaders of the opposition, assemble in order to create a ‘Platajunta’
and fight against social and labour injustice.  People in the street claim for freedom, and amnesty,
holding meetings and demonstration marches. Juan Carlos I, the king, criticises
Arias Navarro publicly and makes him resign as the Prime Minister of Spain in
July, 1976, becoming the last Francoist president of the country. Following his
term in office, Spain experienced a rupture with the previous regime by choosing
Adolfo Suárez, a liberal politician, as Arias Navarro predecessor.  Suárez became Prime Minister of Spain in July
3rd, 1976, and also the first President to be democratically elected
since the Second Spanish Republic. Due to his Political Reform project, which
led a change from Francoist laws and policies to the rules of democracy, Suárez
became essential in the transition of the country. Due to that, universal
suffrage was possible in order to elect a dual chamber for the Government.

Soon, the legalization of political parties followed.

 

Opposition
parties such as Democratic Junta –driven by PCE- and Democratic Convergence
Platform –lead by PSOE- left their clandestine nature behind. As a matter of
fact, he pursuit of democracy led to an unstoppable advance of the opposition,
integrated by people who fought for freedom of expression, criticism, and openness;
and who were willing to regain the long-forgotten memories of the country. It was time to
recover the identity and, therefore, the memories of those who were written off
the history of the country. It was time to talk about the losing side, those
who were treated as whether they were thieves, criminals, and accordingly
undesirable people. Fortunately, along with Suárez reform came the new
cinema law, which slowly led the way to those topics that were both forbidden and
nullified by Francoist government during the dictatorship -besides, the law abolished
a prior script censorship- what allowed Camus to continue with his
antifrancoist film. Thus, Los días del
pasado opened for the first time in 1977, becoming one of the first films
to openly talk about ‘maquis’ and ‘la guerrilla’ life in the North of Spain in
the first years of the dictatorship.  

 

the author

 

Born in 1935, Mario Camus lived his childhood in the
middle of a cold post-war. As a matter of fact, Los días del pasado makes lots of references to the filmmaker’s childhood. For
instance, his relationship with an unknown South of the country, as the
director was born in Santander, or even the reference to people of the same village
in which the film was shot.

 

Moreover, films
such as Los días del pasado marked a turning-point in Camus’ career as it
brought its director prestige due to its expressive strength and his approach to
post-war, through which he finally brought the flip side of Spain’s collective
memory.  

 

the film: Los días del pasado

 

From the prologue,
the film enunciates its aim to explore
the passage of time as well as the outcome of the events through a
metaphoric text from the Wisdom of Sirach.

As a matter of fact, the film explores a love story subverted by historical
events as well as ideologies in Spain, 1945: Juana (Pepa Flores) is a young
school teacher from Andalucía who receives a letter from Antonio (Antonio
Gades), her boyfriend, where he explains that he is back in the country,
fighting in an antifrancoist guerrilla. After hearing from Antonio and with the
sureness a single letter can offer, Juana decides to leave everything and asks
for a spot in a school in the village close to where Antonio is hiding in order
to meet him. Thanks to one of her new students, Gelín (Gustavo Bergés), Juana
is put in contact with the ‘maquis,’ the group of the antifrancoist guerrilla,
and finally has her most desired encounter with Antonio. From then, the
couple’s future encounters and even communication between them gets more
complicated as the film unfolds. Juana finds herself living in a continuous
uncertainty as well as hiding and lying to her neighbours in order not to be
caught by the military police. That situation makes her ask Antonio to flee the
country with her, in order to leave the war behind them and get their freedom
back. However, Antonio rejects Juana’s proposition as he will never abandon his
comrades in battle. Thus, Juana explains to Antonio that she is wasting time,
as she is an unmarried adult and also wants to be with her family. These
inconsolable differences make inevitable the lack of words in their
conversations; making the couple finally understand that they will never get
back their previous life together as war deprived them from their freedom long
ago and they are not able to maintain a single human relationship. As a matter
of fact, Juana decides to return to Andalucía and leave Antonio in the North.

Nevertheless, before setting out, Juana the guerrilla fights in an encounter
with the Francoist troops, where some “maquis” die on the field. The woman runs
to the forest in order to find Antonio, death or alive, unsuccessfully.

Eventually, the teacher gets back to Andalucía and retrieves her job; while the
guerrilla in the North continues.

 

The inner desire of the film to regain the country’s
collective memory is framed by its intention to “tell not telling.” Thus, the
director makes his characters express their fear showing their mistrust when
talking or acting, as some of them spy on other characters, or speak in
whispers in order not to be hear. Moreover, Los
días del pasado, as any other example of Spanish metaphoric cinema, seeks
reflection from its public. That is why Camus does not treat the couple as
romantic heroes but two people who are being destroyed by time and are forced
to take decisions at all costs. Both
Antonio and Juana have changed their perspective in life -as Spanish
society has- as he will not stop
fighting, even though the guerrilla has no hope left, and she is not able to
keep waiting for him her entire life.

 

The director told
El País that he wanted the film to honour
those ordinary people whose lives where destroyed during and after the war1. As
Camus reflects in the film, these people left their families and home, forced
to start all over in an unknown land without a right to complain. Besides, they
were socially mistreated by those who at first called them “poor” but later chased
them as criminals and blamed them for every single misfortune that happened to
the country. However, the director wanted to make clear in the film that these “reds,”
the losers of war, never stopped fighting even when they had no chance of
winning, because they always knew that time would prove them right.

 

Thus, Los días del pasado is mainly a film
about the passage of time, but also the fear and silence suffered during
Franco’s Government. The director’s objective is to offer an approach to the
loser side of the Spanish Civil War as, until the date, ‘maquis’ were usually
shown as criminals, and people had to wait until Democracy’s arrival in order
to talk about that subject from a democratic perspective. All of that exposed
on a film with a new and difficult theme such as antifrancoist guerrilla.

 

In fact, Camus
represents the antifrancoist resistance through Antonio and his “guerrilleros” as
a group of people that has been through many clashes and conflicts in which
they never tasted victory.  The group is
experiencing a crisis as well as uncertainty as they do not know what to do
next. They find themselves constantly hiding and deciding whether to act in
favour or against their principles. In addition, the director also alludes to
Cantabrian Wars, demonstrating that Civil War and its Post-War is no more than
another episode of oligarchic repressions and its consistent popular
resistance. In other words, these conflicts have been a constant in Spanish
history.

 

In
addition, in terms of how society is represented in the film, one of the
changes that stands out the most is the director’s decision to make his female
character lead the narrative when his public is not used to see
female roles being treated like something other than objects or complements to
the male roles. In fact, the spectator is led by a woman during the entire
length of Los días del Pasado: An
employed unmarried single woman who is not afraid to get into the guerrilla in
order to find her love one; a character who stands on the contrary to what audiences
were used to. The director tries to explain what does it mean to be a woman
during those days, showing Juana as a person forced to live with uncertainty
and impotence. On the other hand, Camus reveals an expectant but silent society
who finds itself supportive with the ‘maquis,’ especially through the figure of
Gelín, Juana’s pupil.  

 

Another topic
discussed in the film is education, which is shown from two perspectives: On
the one hand, the officer tries to compare the current Government to the
Catholic Monarchs, using the history of the country in favour of Phalangist
indoctrination; while, on the other hand, Juana wants her pupils to regain the
historic memory of the recent events in order to compare the history of Spain
to their environment so that they understand what is happening exactly. Moreover,
she lets them freedom and talks to them about culture.

 

Analysis
of A scene

 

One of the
scenes that enlightens the film the most, as well as the country’s situation
during war is the one in which Juana asks Antonio to run away with her
(1:24:05-1:28:00).

 

HISTORICAL
APPROACH

 

Los días del pasado was produced in 1976, during
Spain’s transition to democracy, a time when people claimed for openness and
wanted to condemned the damages of a dictatorship that kept them silent for
four decades. As Mario Camus’ film is one of the first to talk openly about both
emigration and the “guerrilla” with its “maquis,” it seems clear that the
arrival of democracy was essential for media and society to recover the socio-political
debate as well as the other side of the story. The fact that there was no
longer a prior script censorship made possible the production of Los días del pasado as whether a year
later, when Arias Navarro was still the Prime Minister of Spain, Camus would
have had no opportunity to talk about the maquis as well as the ravages of war on
the loser side, as topics as such were forbidden by law.

 

 In terms of aesthetics, the scene is recorded
in a dark environment where their faces are hardly recognised. The photography
is realistic with romantic nuances, but it resigns to reflect any beauty in it.

The scene focuses exclusively on a conversation between Juana and Antonio, for
which the director choses close-ups as the main shots. Thus, the director
shares a visual dialogue between them, by which he expresses their impotence to
strike up a conversation. Besides, in respect of soundtrack, the sound of clock
hands -along with a sad and nostalgic violin melody-  joins the couple as a metaphor of time, in
practice those six years that put them apart and destroyed their relationship
making it impossible to return to the days when they were actually joyful.  On the subject of dialogue, it is interrupted
by many pauses making obvious the incapability to communicate of the
characters.

 

 

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

Mario Camus regains
Spain’s collective memory in Los días del
pasado by giving a voice to those who were denied and put down during the
Francoist dictatorship. The director explores a chapter that was closed in
Spanish history, as from 1939 to 1975 nobody ever talked about what happened to
those who fought against the regime. Camus explored the truth about emigration
and the maquis thanks to the freedom of speech and the abolition of the film censorship
that democracy brought to the country. The filmmaker makes a reality of the
mistreatment these “rebels” had to face in a cold world that turned it back on
them and made them invisible through a film that is starred by gazes, losers, symbols,
and mainly silence. A silence that
is paradoxically broken by Los días del
pasado in a time when people is exhausted of remaining silent and wants to
condemn its past in order to progress and protect their future.

1 Camus, M (28
de febero de 1978) Crítica: Cine/ Antecrítica: “Los días del pasado”. El País 

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