April 23, 2007
Blood Wedding, 1981
In a sense, Carlos Saura's first foray into filming classical dance, Blood Wedding, may be seen, not as a stark departure from the immediacy of his narrative films, but rather, as an oblique return to form towards the social interrogations implicit in his earlier work on the fundamental question of Spanish identity - a particularly timely and relevant re-assessment in the aftermath of a contemporary history marked by institutional repression, creative censorship, and historical revisionism. It is within this framework that the selected adaptation of the seminal "rural trilogy" play by Spanish playwright, Federico García Lorca - a writer who was executed by Falangists in the early days of the Civil War and whose work was generally banned throughout Franco's regime - seems particularly suited to this post Franco-era cultural introspection in its dark and tragic tale of passion, betrayal, and revenge. Ushering the beginning of Saura's collaborative work with internationally renowned Flamenco dancer and choreographer Antonio Gades, the film eschews the theatricality and polish of a fully staged performance and instead distills the dance to its elemental art form: the repetition, the preparation, the warm-up, and finally, the uninterrupted dress rehearsal. This sense of quotidian grace is also intimated in an early, seemingly anecdotal episode of the dancers preparing backstage, as Gades describes in self-deprecating manner his youthful aimlessless in moving from one meaningless job to another until a friend suggested that he take up dance - a profoundly life-altering advice that, as he humorously realized in hindsight, had actually been a simple goading by his friend to get into the lucrative profession of cabaret dancing. It is instinctual sense of chance, coincidence, and inscrutable - and inescapable - destiny that inevitably lies at the core of Gades and Saura's adaptation as well - a universal, humanist tale of star-crossed love destroyed by a culture founded on rigid traditions, repression of free will, male aggression, and ritualized violence.