Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Sent to sleep

There was a time when every Spanish film was about the Spanish Civil War, usually about the aftermath and the rough handling of the losers by the nasty winners. Fortunately that has changed nowadays and we get a good spread plots and genres.

Most Spanish films are made with TV money and with subsidies from film funds. This means that they look a bit like those BBC funded films, quite modest in scale, with production values that betray their small screen destinations. If they have a historical theme (and lots do) they are nearly always shot in a sort of muddy brown colour and use the Spanish equivalent of thou to prove their authenticity. Obviously they are voiced in Spanish or, to be more accurate, Castilian. Actually, unless you're in one of the big cities it's nearly impossible to find a film in its original language - everything gets dubbed into Castilian. Colin Firth, King George VI or el Rey Jorge VI has a nice Madrid accent.

The Goyas are the Spanish equivalent of the Oscars. There were plenty of decent nominations this year in genre as diverse as horror, social drama, black comedy and historical. They were presented the same night as the BAFTAs and, as in the UK, one film swept the board. It was a Catalan film called Pa Negre - Black Bread. The theme was the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. One of the interesting things about it was that it was voiced in Catalan with Castilian subtitles.

We had our doubts; the Civil War- hmm? But nine Goyas; it just had to be good and with the bonus that Castilian subtitles would make it dead easy to understand. It wasn't in Catalan by the time we saw it this afternoon, dubbed just like all the rest of the foreign films. And tedious. Tedious as they come. Obviously the theme had to be grim, the film colouring sombre and everyone had to live in filthy unheated hovels. There had to be Guardia Civil with capes and tricorn hats and if there wasn't a gay character then how could it be true to life? Film making by cliché. Actually I could be wrong, I had great difficulty understanding the dialogue and I couldn't tell one raggedy haired person from the next so I slept through a good part of it. Maybe it was a cinematic milestone after all.


marilo said...

Chris, it is alright to call castillian Spanish too. There is a lot of contraversy on the subject, mostly political. What do South Americans speak? Spanish? Castillian? Both forms are correct, and I tend to use one or the other depending on what comes first to mind. Cheers

Chris Thompson and Maggie Brocken said...

Marilo: of course Castilian is Spanish but so are Catalan, Basque and Galician. Some of my neighbours round here might argue that Valencian is a language too and I met a chap oop North who seemed to think Babel was too. I don't think your Constitution agrees. South Americans (well those who don't live in Belize or Brazil or the Falklands) speak Castilian.

marilo said...

hmmm yes, well, your reasoning is the one in vogue now, but I still have to make my mind up on it. I think it is a line of thinking introduced by Catalonians who seem to be on a new colonisation stage, like the kingdom of Castilla and Leon was once upon a time when most of us have gone past the colonisation stage and live in a more global reality. There is difference of opinion amongst intellectuals too, on the subject. However, I do respect all opinions. I just wanted to state here that not all spaniards think on those lines.

Chris Thompson and Maggie Brocken said...

Artículo 3.

1. El castellano es la lengua española oficial del Estado. Todos los españoles tienen el deber de conocerla y el derecho a usarla.

2. Las demás lenguas españolas serán también oficiales en las respectivas Comunidades Autónomas de acuerdo con sus Estatutos.

3. La riqueza de las distintas modalidades lingüísticas de España es un patrimonio cultural que será objeto de especial respeto y protección.

I have a friend who is Mexican. She gets very excited about the people of the United States claiming to be the only true "Americans" and thereby denying the term to Peruvians, Bolivians, Uruguayans, Canadians etc. Isn't the same true of Castellano becoming Español?