Plot: Lucia is an anthology film, three separate stories related by the common theme of women in revolution. It tells the stories of three Lucias, one in 1895, when the Cubans fought for independence from the Spaniards (a situation that resolved with U.S. intervention and purchase of Cuba from Spain); in 1933, when Cuban popular resistance against the dictator Geraldo Machado resulted in failure; and 196-, in the aftermath of the victory of the revolution led by Fidel Castro. They are women from three different classes: The first is upper class, the second is from the middle class, the third is working class. They have three different ranges of potential action, and responses. Each story is hung on a love drama. In the first, the woman has an affair with a Spanish soldier, in which she must betray her own family. In the second, a young woman abandons her family and class to go underground with her soon-to-be-slain husband; in the third, a young wife learns how to read and write and work in collective agriculture, in spite of a traditionally macho husband who tries to keep her in the house.
Style: Lucia demonstrates vividly and with great creativity the relationship between form and content. The style of each segment is distinctive and appropriate both to the tale and to evoking the epoch. The first, in which lighting is in harsh black and white contrasts, camera movement is langorous and elegaic, acting is melodramatic, ends with a delirious camera spin as the protagonist finds a commonality with the despised madwoman of the streets. The second has a tense thriller rhythm and a bias toward interior shots that reflect the protagonist's chafing at confining of her action; it ends in a stunned freeze frame that suspends the action and her possibilities. The third is sun-filled, bawdy and raucous, with revolutionary songs dotting the soundtrack and dialog shot through with vivid slang. This tale too ends unresolved, with the camera circling the endlessly-fighting couple from above. The film ends with a metaphorical shot, of a little girl in a white shift running free toward the landscape.
Background on director/film: Humberto Solas is one of the founders of the Cuban film institute ICAIC. (See Memories of Underdevelopment.) He joined at its founding in 1959, when he was only 17 years old, after having participated in the revolution. He has always been among the most ambitious in terms of formal experimentation, and has maintained his early fascination with women's roles and gender issues generally. (This may in part reflect his sensitivity to the ways that form influences content in all human communication; it also may relate to the fact that Solas is gay. He has been discreet about his sexual preferences, surviving a fierce period of purges of homosexuals, but expresses his awareness of different perspectives in his art.) Lucia may be his masterpiece. Occuring after his first full-length narrative film (Manuela, 1966), it provides a synthesis of form and content. Later films have been extremely ambitious, particularly in terms of production values--several have been lavish period pieces--but have not had the compelling urgency of Lucia. Solas had a major debacle when in 1981 ICAIC dedicated the bulk of its resources for feature film to his epic retelling of a famous and beloved Cuban novel, Cecilia Valdes. The film was widely disliked by the Cuban public, which quarreled with its reinterpretation of the novel, and was disliked elsewhere for being long and leaden.
In an interview with Julianne Burton (for cite, see below, Further Reading) Solas explained the making of Lucia. He said that the second section was drawn from family experiences; his father hadparticipated in the failed insurrection against Machado, and had survived, a broken man. Solas argued that the '30s experience was an important precursor to the later successful revolution.
The film was made during preparations for a celebration of the 1967 centenary of struggles for Cuban independence (beginning with a failed attempt at independence from Spain). "I wanted to view our history in phases, to show how apparent frustrations and setbacks...led us to a higher stage of national life...But whenever you make a historical film...you are referring to the present. In Lucia 1933 as well as in Lucia 1985 there are aspects of the plot that are tied to the most immediate contemporary realities. For example, in the 1933 segment, there is the whole struggle in the final part between the opportunists and the genuine revolutionaries. This struggle occurs in every evolutionary process."
Solas made women the protagonists because "women are traditionally the number one victims in all social confrontations. The woman's role always lays bare the contradictions of a period and makes them explicit." He argued that machismo feeds underdevelopment. He chose women protagonists, he said, not because of "feminism," but because women's victim status provides more dramatic potential.
Solas believes, as he told Burton, that "I consider all films to be political, though I certainly don't consider all films to be revolutionary...I think film is a means of cognition, a way of discovering reality. Cinema takes on a revolutionary character to the extent that it becomes a weapon of struggle." He believes that his films strive for that goal, and that the Cuban nationalized cinema permits risk-taking to achieve it.
Film production context: See Memories of Underdevelopment. Solas is now one of the leaders of the director-led creative groups.
Importance: Lucia was received with great enthusiasm in Cuba, and won many international awards, becoming one of the best-known and admired of the Cuban films of the most celebrated creative period to date of ICAIC. It is now an international classic. It is valuable to demonstrate how history always searches out a "useable past;" for discussion of the relationship between form and content; and as an example of engaged cinema that is also a narrative, psychologically engaging one.Further Reading:
Last updated on September 17, 1996
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