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Contemporary Spanish Cinema

Module Code: HP308
Module Name: Contemporary Spanish Cinema
Module Coordinator: Dr Mary Harrod
Not Running 2018-19
Module Credits: 15

Module Description

This module offers an introduction to key trends and directors in contemporary cinema from Spain. The module examines important textual and contextual issues shaping Spanish film after the dictatorship (1939-1975), and since the political transition to democracy in the mid-1970s, concentrating on the rapid transformation of Spanish cinema into a global cinema since the 1990s. We will look at the ways in which Spanish cinema has negotiated the political past and reinvented itself through genres and forms such as comedy, the fantasy/horror film, the social film or the experimental film, as well as the work of directors such as Alejandro Amenábar, Icíar Bollaín, Álex de la Iglesia, Julio Medem, Isaki Lacuesta, Guillermo del Toro and Pedro Almodóvar.

Primary texts

There are no set texts as such for this module other than the films (see below), which will be made available to students through online digitisation; secondary readings will be prescribed each week (see Module Outline in right-hand column). However, students may find the following books useful as background and would certainly be recommended to read one if they have not studied film before:

• David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction (6th edition, New York, Knopf, 1998).

• Timothy Corrigan and Patricia White, The Film Experience (Boston, Bedford, 2004 edition). See especially a section in the latter on 'Writing a Film Essay' (pp. 474-80 and following examples)

The following provide a potentially useful introduction to Spanish film specifically:

• Benet, Vicente J. El cine español: una historia cultural. Paidós, 2012.

• Jordan, Barry and Mark Allinson. Spanish Cinema: A Student’s Guide. Hodder Arnold, 2005.

• Gubern, R. et al. Historia del cine español. Madrid: Catedral, 1995.

Film programme

Week 1 - Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Pedro Almodóvar, 1988) [85 min]

Week 2 - Cría cuervos (Carlos Saura, 1976) [109 min]

Week 3 - Tesis (Alejandro Amenábar, 1995) [118 min]

Week 4 - El laberinto del fauno (Guillermo del Toro, 2006) [120 min]

Week 5 - Te doy mis ojos (Icíar Bollaín, 2003) [103 min]


Week 7 - La ardilla roja (Julio Medem, 1993) [113 min]

Week 8 - La leyenda del tiempo (Isaki Lacuesta, 2005) [110 min]

Week 9 - La Comunidad (Álex de la Iglesia, 2000) [112 min]

Week 10 - Blancanieves (Pablo Berger, 2012) [100 min]

Assessment Method:

1 x 4000-4500 word essay and class presentation


Assessment questions

Answer one question with reference to at least two films from the course (the set film or those recommended under 'further viewing' may be analysed).

  1. Discuss the representation of violence in everyday contexts.
  2. How does the child’s gaze enable different ways of thinking about the historical past, or about the everyday, in ways that challenge conventional realism?
  3. “Auteur cinema in… Spain is gradually turning from a privileged discursive function of oppositional filmmaking, to a privileged discursive function of the market” (Christina A. Buckley). Discuss this statement with reference to two Spanish directors, or two films by one director.
  4. In what ways does contemporary Spanish cinema reflect social anxieties about changing gender roles?
  5. Examine the use of formal experimentation or pastiche to engage with issues of history and/or cultural identity.
  6. When considering the strong tradition of realist cinema in Spain, we need to take on board that “realism” is a construction that has specific purposes and effects. Discuss this statement with regard to either two films that can be connected to this aesthetic tradition or two films that go against the grain of such a tradition by introducing fantasy or comedy elements through their iconography and/or plot.
  7. In which ways and to what extent are transnational elements a key feature of contemporary Spanish cinema?
  8. Discuss the visual and narrative use of period settings in recent Spanish cinema.
  9. Explore the ways in which space and place convey meaning in social, intertextual, allegorical and/or generic terms (you may focus on one or two of the above four aspects).
  10. Discuss the relationship between genre and authorship in the work of two contemporary Spanish directors, or two films by one director.