JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

 

 

Consciousness and perception

As discussed in the introduction above, one of the defining characteristics of Cuban cinema is the recognition of the relation between consciousness and perception, and the insistence on the possibility of transforming consciousness through historical struggle. The connection between how people think and how they see is presented primarily in the juxtaposition between the high contrast used to portray the lower classes and the more normal contrast range which marks the presentation of Lucía 1 and her class. (Because of problems in reproducing frame enlargements, it is not possible to indicate this difference with images. A clear comparison of the contrast ranges can be seen in the juxtaposition between Lucía's group in the house and Fernandina's confrontation with the Spanish soldiers in the street outside the house early in the segment.) Having established this thematic visual structure, the film then goes on to use it as a means of portraying the transformation of Lucía's consciousness.

(#46, #47) This is seen first of all in the sequence with the prostitutes. Lucía has decided to run away to the coffee plantation with Rafael, after having had sex with him at the sugar mill. As she leaves her hone, the film cuts to a high-contrast dreamlike sequence in which a prostitute who clearly resembles Lucía is also in the process of running away. For a moment we are uncertain whether this is a nightmare dreamt by Lucía or an actual occurrence in the street.

The dilemma is immediately resolved by a cut to the normal contrast, high-angle shot which includes both Lucía and the prostitutes (#47).

Through this cut we come to understand that Lucía's perception of resemblance to the prostitute has resulted from a "frame of mind," which made her see herself as a prostitute because of her sexual relations with Rafael. The use of a high-angle camera demonstrates her perception and emphasizes the way the colonial Catholic society entraps women within restricted and controlled socioeconomic roles and limits their consciousness through sexual repression. Lucía's incipient recognition that she is as much a victim of political and sexual repression as lower-class Cuban women is thus graphically presented in this brilliant mini-essay.

(#48) The transformation of consciousness presaged in the prostitute sequence is realized on the battlefield. Betrayed and deserted by Rafael, and horrified at endangering her brother's life, Lucía is unable to bear the strain and undergoes a profound transformation of consciousness. Here, by limiting the focus to Lucía, the film indicates that she has lost connection with what she has until now considered to be "reality." Her class perception is no longer able to integrate the contradictions of love and sexual repression, and she begins to see the world in a new way.

(#49) This transformation is presented primarily in the shift to high contrast footage for the rest of the segment. Lucía now sees the world through the more "realistic" eyes of the lower-class Cubans (the footage is seemingly realistic because of imitating the high contrast film stock in ancient newsreels). At the coffee plantation, this visual theme is expressed through the presentation of the old soldier as a symbol of the reality of an aged and decayed Spain.

(#50) At the end of the segment, the fact that Lucía has in some ways transcended the boundaries of her class conditioning is underscored through Fernandina's touching of her face. Fernandina represents the authenticity of a repressed and humiliated Cuba, driven to the point of insanity by Spanish rapaciousness. It is Fernandina who comforts Lucía in her final agony, and the freeze-frame ending indicates that though Lucía has been deserted by her class of origin, she has at last found support and nurturance from a source she formerly experienced only as alien.

Cultural imbalance

The visual style of "1932" is not as self-consciously classical as that used in "1895." However, the segment is characterized by the continual use of unbalanced frames, which function to portray the instability typical of a neocolonial culture and the psychological imbalance that results from being caught in such a context. The use of this technique throughout the segment indicates the continuity of neocolonialism in spite of the fall of Machado.

(#51, #52, #53) Frame imbalance can be seen in #51, where Lucía 2 and Aldo are framed against the sea prior to the fall of Machado, and in #52 and #53 as Lucía and the policeman wait to view Aldo's body at the end of the segment.

(#54) Perhaps the most interesting use of frame imbalance is augmented by the frenzied swooping and swirling of the camera as it moves through the crowd.

(#55) Shots of Aldo during this scene, though, tend to be more balanced and appear more purposeful. This indicates that he is a stable being in an unstable world, an outsider in the bizarre depraved celebration of the acceptance of the reinstituted neocolonial rule.

(#56) However, the way Aldo is framed as he rushes out the door at the end of the sequence indicates the psychological imbalance caused with even the most committed of individuals by so decadent a context.

Vestigial psychological distortion

Like "1932," "196_" does not appear to be as self-consciously stylized as "1895." One expressive device, however, is the use of a wide-angle lens to portray the vestiges of psychological distortion left by the conditioning under prerevolutionary culture. This is particularly effective at the end of the film, where Lucía 3 and Tomás are "reunited."

(#57) We know Tomás' vestigial machismo to be a distortion caused by his psychological formation in the prerevolutionary society, and inappropriate in his present context. This theme has been developed in the storyline and is here visually underscored through the distortion of the wide-angle lens.

(#58) We discover in this sequence that Lucía's psychology is complementary to Tomás'. Her psychological base is equally distorted as a result of her own formation in the phallocentrism of prerevolutionary society, and she remains attracted to Tomás both because of and in spite of his machismo.

(#59) Solas' intention in using the wide-angle lens is clear when we compare the distortion of Lucía and Tomás with the normal presentation of the young girl. It is in some senses too late for Tomás and Lucía. But the coming generations of Cuban children will have no such distortions impinging on their perceptions and relationships. The child's presence at the film's end also indicates the thematic focus on the masses and their future rather than the isolated individuals who are the focus of classical bourgeois cinema.

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