Cinergía Movie File:

Belle Epoque

Directed by Fernando Trueba, 1992

 

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Written and compiled by Jim Akins, Katie Craig, and Irma Escatel

Scroll down or Click on any section to jump ahead:

Section 1: Pre-screening

Section 2: Film Comprehension and Criticism

    Section 3: Media analysis


Section 1: Pre-screening  

Part I: Background links

Note: Given the transitory nature of internet resources we suggest conducting a search to help answer the pre-screening questions.  Only a few links are included below.

1.  Belle Epoque at IMDB

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0103791/

This site gives an overview of the film, Belle Epoque, which helps the viewer to better understand the movie.  In addition to a summary of the plot, the director, Fernando Trueba, explains his purpose for making the film. (English)

2.   Free Women

http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/ws98/ws54_mujeres_libres.html

Mujeres Libres (Free Women) – was a group of anarchist women who fought for women’s freedom and for an Anarchist revolution during the Spanish Civil War.  This site gives information about the progress made by women and of their desire to be treated as equals.  (English)

3.  History of the Spanish Civil War

http://es.geocities.com/guerraciv/           

This site is divided into six sections.  It begins by explaining the events that occurred in Spain before the Civil War.  The other sections discuss the Primo de Rivera’s dictatorship, the Second Republic, the Spanish Civil War, women in the Civil War, and finally a list of related links. (Spanish)

4.  The Spanish Civil War

http://www.guerracivil1936.galeon.com/

The history of Spain from 1931 to 1936 is summarized and the site contains other links that give a detailed analysis of the events that occurred during this time period.  The following can be found on this site:  a description of the Second Republic and its proclamation in 1931, the problems of the Second Republic (1931 to 1933), the laws of the Republic (1933 to 1935), and the triumph of the Popular Front (1936).  (Spanish)

5.  Virtual Exposition of Republican Posters during the Spanish Civil War

http://www.nodo50.org/fimpv/carteles.htm

A virtual exposition of Republican posters from the Spanish Civil War is found at this site.  The posters rely on symbolism, including colors and images, to communicate their message.  (Spanish)

6.  More on the Spanish Civil War

http://www.docuweb.ca/SiSpain/spanish/history/civil.html

This site enumerates the most important events of each year of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939).  It also provides essential information about the division of Spain, between Republican and Nationalist forces. (Spanish) 

7.  20th Century Spain 

http://vespito.net/historia/

This site focuses on Franquismo and the Transition.  It also gives historical information about both sides of the war.  Other links deal with Franco’s dictatorship and describe the opposition.  (Spanish)

Part II:  Pre-screening questions

  1. In what year did the Spanish Civil War begin and when did it end?  Who represented the two sides in the war and who was the victor?
  2. What were some of the different political parties in Spain during the 1930’s?  What was their purpose?
  3. How was each political party regarded in Spain?  Who had the most power?
  4. Who eventually came into power and how did he reign?
  5. What was life like in Spain before the war?
  6. What was the typical family like in Spain before, during, and after the civil war?
  7. What was the role of women before, during, and after the Spanish Civil War?
  8. What was the role of men before, during, and after the Civil War?
  9. Why was Belle Époque able to criticize Nationalism and other aspects of society in Spain?
  10. What is the plot of Belle Époque, and how does it relate to the information gathered above? 

Section 2: Film Comprehension and Criticism  

   Part I.  Comprehension Questions 

1.       When does the movie take place?  Why is this time period important?

2.       Where does the film take place?  Is the setting important?

3.       What is the theme of the movie and how well does it portray historical events?

4.       Is the film an accurate representation of the time period?  Do you think that what happened to Fernando could happen?

5.       Who are the main characters and how would you describe each one?

6.       ¿What is the women’s role? What is the men’s role?  How does this correspond to what we know about the time period?

7.       How would you describe the women in the film?  Are they good women or bad women?  Are they stereotypes? 

8.       How does the film portray the ideologies in Spain during this time?

9.       How does Manolo’s ideology differ from that of Juanito and his mother, Dofía Asun?

10.   In his first encounter with Fernando, Manolo says, “I am a rebel, an infidel, and a libertine by nature, living life like a scared old bourgeois."  Analyze his comment.

11.   How does the film portray the difference between classes? 

12.   What is the role of religion in the film?  In your opinion, who, in the film, is the most religious?

13.   What is the importance of the book Del sentimiento trágico de la vida by Miguel Unamuno?

14.   What do you think of the marriage between Fernando and Luz?  

15.   Is there a connection between Juanito’s political decisions and Fernando’s ‘love’ decisions? 

16.   How is the last scene significant?  Is there more than one interpretation?

Part II.  Historical Accuracy 

The following quotes come from:  Jordan, Barry.  “Promiscuity, Pleasure, and Girl Power: Fernando Trueba's Belle Epoque.”  http://artsci.shu.edu/spanish/Promiscuity.htm.

1.       Does it is seem problematic to you that the film pokes fun at politics?

2.       What is the effect of the imaginative and fantastical treatment of history?

3.       Does Belle Epoque’s representation of the past seem accurate?  Has it helped you understand Spanish history?  How?

4.       Throughout the film, what is the sexual dynamic?  How does Fernando react to the untraditional female roles?

5.       Analize the liberated woman in Belle Epoque and the traditional Spanish woman.  For whom is this fantasy, women or men?

6.       What is the masculine role?  What is the implication of their feminized role?

7.       Juanito is conservative, how is his character treated?  How does this relate to the time period?

8.       In a social context, are his changes from conservative to liberal problematic?

9.       Describe the town priest.   Why does the film poke fun at religion?  Is this typical for the time period?

10.   This film is about “paradise and the discovery of life:  freedom, art, love, sex, friendship” (Trueba).  Is it problematic that the film treats violence and war with fantasy and humor?

 


Section 3: Media analysis  

Part I:  Still Analysis

 

Carnival

 

 

The medium shot in this take is to emphasize the sister’s dominance over Fernando.  The natural light coming from the right illuminates the profile of Fernando’s face and Luz’s hand.  This shows the strength of the woman and the impotence of the man.  The shadow in the background causes the focus to be on Luz who is on top of Fernando creating the mutual objectification.  Fernando and Luz are looking at each other, showing their desire and revealing the sexual freedom that both sexes enjoy.  Violeta is dressed in a blue coat, which exemplifies masculinity referring to the game she plays with the masculine role.  The expressions of the women while looking at Fernando shows the aggressive desire that usually is a characteristic of men.     

Role Change

 

 

This still is an extreme close-up of  Fernando and Violeta.  There is a strong light (from the background) that shines on Violeta’s hand and the left-side of Fernando’s face---while she is putting lipstick on Fernando.  This signifies that she is helping him “transform” into a woman.  He is also wearing a maid’s costume. Violeta is dressed like a man, but you cannot see her face.  You can only see the short hair like a man.  Ironically, both have changed their roles.  Another interesting detail is the look Fernando has on his face: his eyes are looking up towards Violeta.  His face has no expression, while Violeta holds his face with her other hand.  It seems to be a point-of-view shot from the right, that is why you can’t see Violeta’s face.  The man seems to be controlled by the woman (Violeta).

 

The Rejection

 

 

This still is a medium shot in an open frame, meaning we cannot see the entire scene.  There is natural lighting that enters through the door, which lights the wedding dress and the face of her future mother-in-law.  Dofía Asun does not agree with Rocío, so she forces the dress off of her.  Rocío shows great emotion and rejection in her face, even though her face is partially covered because of her hair (which shows movement).  The still is a bit unfocused because of the movement, but one can still see the emotion in their faces.  The fiancé, Juanito, does not agree with his mother’s actions and he wants to help Rocío, but his mother is more powerful than him.  She shows determination in her face.  At her side is Rocío’s sister, which is trying to calm the mother-in-law down.  

The Republic wins!     

 

 

The lighting in the still is natural.  There also seems to be another light from the right that lights the arm of Dofía Asun that points at the Republican cake while partially covering Juanito’s face.  It is a medium shot that dedicates itself to show us Dofía Asun’s change of perspective, which is contradictory to what she felt before.  She used to support the Nationalists, until the Republicans won.  Juanito takes on the secondary role in the still, he is positioned lower part of the still.  Dofía Asun points at the Republican cake and her face illustrates her happiness.  At the same time, her son looks dumbfounded.  The colors of the cake represent the Republicans.  The light that shines on the cake shows us its importance in the film.  This still shows us the simplicity of the mother because she changes easily from one ideology to another.            

 

Different Observations

 

 

This still has natural lighting and is a medium shot.  It shows us the mother and her 2 daughters observing Luz and Fernando kiss.  It is an open frame because the action is happening outside of the frame, which is the focus of the still.  It is interesting to notice that the women have different perspectives of what is happening.  The mother has an expression of content in her face, with an almost complete smile.  Rocío is thinking profoundly and does not have a concrete opinion about the situation.  The other sister is very focused in what is happening.  She is really concentrating.  This seems to be a frontal shot (as if someone were standing in front of them).  This still shows us the simplicity of the mother, above all, in the film. 

 

The Thinker

 

 

The Medium Long Shot focuses on the entire scene in order to highlight the liberal and conservative social issues and not on individuals. The camera angle is a bit low giving more importance to the death of the priest, whose body hangs in the foreground.  Manolo and Juanito look up, again giving importance to the priest.  The natural light comes from the left, illuminating Juanito’s face, indicating his exaggerated faith.  We don’t see the face of the priest, but the light illuminates his dangling feet; highlighting his ironic decision to commit suicide.  Another light illuminates Manolo’s hands as he takes the book from the cold, stiff hands of the priest.  The book would indicate the reason behind the suicide.  The rest of the scene, including Manolo’s face, is seen in a contrast of light and dark, focusing on the uncertainty and imminent destiny of the liberal Spaniards.

Manolo is taking from the hand of the priest Del sentimiento trágico de la vida by Miguel Unamuno, a philosopher who questioned his faith and saw suicide as an escape from mortality.  Unamuno was the priest’s obsession and probably the cause of his demise.  Unamuno in Del sentimiento trágico de la vida writes, “"A human soul is worth the whole universe”, has said I don’t know who, but has said it illustriously.  A human soul, huh?  Not a life…"He who wishes to save his life, will lose it", says the evangelist; but he doesn’t say he who wishes to save his soul, the soul immortal (Unamuno, http://www.geocities.com/tragicounamuno/ensayo3.htm).”

Part II:  Media Literacy Questions

 

1.       What political interests do you see reflected in Belle Époque?

2.       Who produced the movie? What type of audience was it directed towards and why was it filmed?

3.       Compare the year the movie Belle Époque was produced and the year of Franco’s death. What significance does it have?

4.       Has the movie received any awards? For what reason?

5.       What voices are in the film?  What perspectives are presented to the audience?

6.       What role do women play in the film? Give some examples.

7.       What does Luz represent in the movie? In your opinion, is she a positive or negative character?

8.       What role does the mother play in the movie? Is she typical/traditional? Support your answer.

9.       How do the angles of the camera help to create emotions and feelings? When are close-ups used and what shots are used?

10.   How does the contrast of light/dark contribute to the perspective of the movie?

11.   How was the Civil War reflected in this movie? Do you feel that every opponent in the war is represented equally? Or, do you think that a certain point of view was not presented?

12.   What role does Fernando play?  What was the significance of using a young man as one of the main characters?

13.   Does the director cause you to feel sympathy for the women in the movie? Or, does he cause you to have other feelings?

14.   What techniques or scenes does the director use to show the role-change of women and men?  What was the significance of those scenes that deal with the Civil War. 

15.   Do you think the title, Belle Époque, is appropriate for the movie?

 

 

 

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