Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Los Santos Inocentes: The Root Causes of the War

Los Santos Inocentes: The Root Causes of the War

I have to admit that at the beginning of this quarter I knew almost nothing about the Spanish Civil War. I had heard of the conflict, and of Franco, but that was the extent of my knowledge. Of the politics involved, I knew nothing. Of the international involvement, I knew nothing. Through this class, however, I have gained at least a beginner’s understanding of the forces at work in Spain during the twenties and thirties, and, more importantly, I have gained the desire to find out more on my own. The material we discussed in class in the form of novels, poetry, and historical records have accomplished much in developing my interest in and understanding of the war. I believe, however, that this interest and understanding would not have been as complete without the dimension added by the films we watched, both in class and in the series at the Museum of History and Industry. Each film had something unique to offer in terms of getting a grip on certain aspects of the war, whether it be the political and historical backdrop, the involvement of the “internationals,” or the effects of the war on the humans who were swept up in it against their will. Because each film was different and offered a different perspective on the conflict and its effects, and because each film was powerful enough to stand on its own as a work of art with or without the backdrop of real events (with the possible exception of The Good Fight which, being a documentary, obviously depends on its basis in fact), it is difficult to pick one out of the bunch and write about it. However, when I examine the films in terms of what the Spanish Civil War was really about, I find that the only one that comes immediately to mind is Los Santos Inocentes.

It may seem odd to choose a film that is not really about the war to exemplify what the war was about, but I think that at its most fundamental level this war, like any war, was about human relationships, between both groups and individuals. In the Spanish Civil War, the groups who wanted change were defeated by the groups who wanted to maintain the status quo. Thus the issues that brought about the desire for change were not addressed, but rather were brutally suppressed, and the status quo was strictly enforced. Los Santos Inocentes is the only film we saw that portrayed that status quo. Each of the other films’ characters were in situations beyond the norm, and therefore their actions and reactions were outside the norm. They all hated the fascists, so fascists must be bad. But what exactly was a fascist? And what did they want? What did anyone want, for that matter, other than to be or not to be a fascist or a republican? Because of this, I at first found it difficult to understand the nature of the conflict. With all of the political analysis and historical perspective and the chaos of the war itself, I still could not really grasp why the war had to happen. After experiencing Los Santos Inocentes, however, I feel that I finally have an idea of the reasons such a war was inevitable.

Quite simply, Los Santos Inocentes illustrates the inequality between aristocrat and campesino that has probably existed in Spain since before the Moors. Through the actions of the characters we see the lack of regard that the wealthy class had for those who in effect “came with the property.” Especially illustrative of this is the relation ship between the “young master” and the main protagonist who had served as the young master’s hunting companion for many years. At first there seems to be a genuine affection between the two. This illusion is dispelled soon enough, though, when we see the young master’s complete disregard for his servant’s health when he breaks his leg in a hunting accident. The master’s only concern is for how his hobby will be affected. That is to say, he considers his inconvenience to be more important than the suffering of a servant. Their pain, in his mind, is less real than his own. They are not as human as he is.

The Good Fight laid out the groundwork for understanding the Spanish Civil War in terms of the political and historical circumstances of the times, as well as how those circumstances acted to influence people from all over the world to volunteer. For Whom the Bell Tolls worked fairly well as both a novel and a film in giving me a committed outsider’s view of the war. Ay Carmella illustrated the plight of the non-combatants. Only Los Santos Inocentes dealt with the heart of the matter, with the fundamental inequality between the classes that caused the war in the first place.

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