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Comparison of novel and film: La Familia de Pascual Duarte

Essay 2002 6 Pages

Romance Languages - Spanish Studies

Excerpt

Course: HS 2057 Cinema & Identity in Spain & Latin America

Title:

Comparison of novel and film: La Familia de Pascual Duarte

U.C.C.

Renate Bagossy

ID: 101150324

10.01.2002

The film version of the novel La Familia de Pascual Duarte by Camilo José Cela is written and directed by Ricardo Franco Rubio and was first screened in 1975.

Without any background knowledge the film seems hard to follow, boring and depressing, but by watching it with background knowledge, just as Spanish history, Spanish cinema history, the novel itself or by watching the film for the second time one can realise, that it is a very demanding film full of symbols, of small important details which all have a second meaning, a hidden meaning.

Turning a novel into a film is a very complex task, one cannot just take the book and, without changing anything, trying to make a film out of it. There are huge differences between reading a book and watching the same thing on screen: ”the analysis of a literary text reveals the manner in which linguistic and literary tools such as graphemes, syntax, tropes, shadings, and narrative strategies create a story and its characters. The cinematic rendering of that verbal fiction is accomplished by means of cinematic tools such as mise-en-scéne, photography and camera work, editing, sound, narrative strategies, and choice of actors.”[1]

So there must be some changes, because some details of books that are good to read, are not necessarily good to watch!

It is difficult to say, when is a film version of a novel ”good” or ”bad”, because the filmmakers work with other instruments, in a ”good” film version we do not see exactly the same, that we imagined while reading the book. By comparing the novel to the film there are similarities and differences, in the film there are characters and scenes left out but also things added, which do not appear in the book.

”Novel and film share several basic structural elements. 1) Both focus on the text's central character, Pascual Duarte, an agricultural labourer living with his family in an isolated, unnamed village in Extremadura, Spain. The time frame is principally the first three decades of the twentieth century. 2) Both texts present a case of individual violence that, while enacted within a circumscribed social sphere, resonates with meaning on a national level. 3) Both texts, hindered by the censorship of the Franco years, mask the significance of the social and historical context for criminal behaviour. 4) Both texts actively engage the receptor in the task of providing a motive for the extremely violent behaviour exhibited by the protagonist.”[2]

In the novel there is a first person narrator. Pascual gives the reader a glance into his life in the form of highly personal memoirs ”that are in fact a confession and unburdening of his crimes and their motives.”[3] Pascual is writing it in his prison cell waiting for his execution. ”The narrated events are governed by a single subjectivity, by a man who steadfastly leads the reader to believe that his violent behaviour was determined fatalistically, by a series of unfortunate familial situations.”[4] By reading a book written in first person narration, the reader easily identifies with the narrator itself and in a way accepts his acts without judging him. In the film the structure is a little bit more complicated. ”The temporal orchestration of the four flashbacks crates a circular narrative. The plot is structured [around] present time (Pascual as prisoner) and past time (the remembered events from childhood to manhood)...”[5], which makes the film hard to follow.

It is no exaggeration to say that one is lost if one does not know the novel, but as the novel is commonly regarded as one of the most significant Spanish novels of the twentieth century and in Spain everybody is reading the novel in school, we can assume that most of the people who watched the film, also read the novel. So in a way it is justified, that the film requires some background knowledge.

One big difference between novel and film is, that ”the film, while strongly suggesting a socioeconomic context for violence, declines to offer a clear motive for the use of violence.”[6]

As the book is written in first person narration, we get to know everything trough the eyes of Pascual. We know what he thinks, we know why he does the crimes, what his feelings are, and of course we get to know his motives. In the film we cannot look into Pascual's head, at first sight we do not see the reasons for the murders, which makes the film even more violent.

Another difference between book and film is the fact that not everything we get to know in the novel also appears in the film and the other way around. There are characters just as Manolo, Pascual's brother, Pascual's second wife and his child, which has been left out of the film. Of course it is useless to make a film in which there are many and many characters, because it would be confusing for the audience, but because of leaving out these characters, there necessarily are scenes which did not appear in the film, but are important for the understanding of Pascual's motives.

The audience of this film has to be very attentive, because the motives of Pascual are in fact there in the film but they are maybe not obvious, they are hidden. Pascual's hatred towards his mother, for example, is not so clear in the film. We just see how she drinks, and in a way lets her husband die behind the locked up door. But in the film the mother is just partly characterised, we do not get to know her very well. In the book on the other hand she is characterised in more detail, we experience how she laughs when her child, Manolo dies, which of course is very cruel and shows that she is not a good mother at all.

So the audience of the film has to be very cautious, otherwise for them Pascual is depicted as a man who kills without reason.

Don Jesús, who is just once or twice mentioned in the novel, plays an important role in the film. He is, in comparison to the other inhabitants of the village, rich, wears a clean white shirt, which also shows, that he can wear such a colour, because he does not do hard labour, so he does not get dirty. He is also depicted as superior to the other inhabitants: when there is no work for the people and they are fighting in the street, Don Jesús appears on the balcony and speaks to them. He looks down on them (he is superior to them) and they look up to him (they are inferior to him). In a way he is also a father figure, he gives Pascual money on his wedding, wishing the best for them.

In the film we also get to know more about the political situation of the land. In the book we just know about the family. In the film, there are soldiers coming searching the house. The pre-civil war times in Spain have and influence on the violence: ”Pascual is rendered helpless, and reduced to his animal instincts by the conflagration that is about to sweep over Spain.”[7] But of course the film makers had to hide every political criticism because of the censure.

In the film there is the story of Abraham and Isaac, which is first read by Pascual and the second time read by a schoolboy in the school some 20 years later. When it is read the second time, Pascual is a victim, he comes to the priest to talk about his wedding, which only has to take place because his future wife is pregnant. The repeating of the story shows, that society has changed little, everything is just as it was 20 years ago.

The stagnation, the depressive, melancholy tone is present all over the film. It replaces many things that are in the novel but could not be brought to the screen. First of all, there is this big contrast between the inside and the outside shots: inside there is everything dark and shadowy and outside there is the huge sun, immense light, the hot weather, the boring colours and the wind. So in a way all the settings are places which we do not want to be, which are showing the monotony of the life of the people who are living there. The characters are lost in this endless expanse, they are insignificant, they do not talk much. When we first see Pascual he is small, and he stands there as if he knows that he is nobody. Everything and everybody are moving very slowly, sometimes nothing happens, we just see somebody sitting or standing. ”The screen time is slowed down to real time so that the spectator experiences time in the same way as the characters.”[8] The insignificancy of the characters is intensified by the close-ups, which are never on their faces but on there're hands, so we do not see their eyes, we do not see what they are thinking of.

Beside this, there are a lot of symbols in the film: ”a lone tree pushing up towards the sky symbolising the isolation of the inhabitants; an extreme long shot of a horse-drawn cart rambling across a field, or a truck lumbering noisily against a vast sky as a reminder of the distances between locales (...) a full shot of a large bed signifying birth, sickness, or death.”[9] So Pascual Duarte is a very visual film.

The music is also very monotone. There is a simple guitar melody, which is over and over again repeated in the film. Sometimes it suddenly stops and there is no music at all and tension is built up.

All in all, the life of the people who are living there is no fun, they are trapped. Rosario tries to escape while moving to a city and becoming a prostitute, but one can question it, if that is really a ”better” life.

”The film adaptation of La familia de Pascual Duarte has made a successful attempt to expand upon the threads of social, economic, and historical discourse that are only suggested in the original work.”[10]

While we get to know about everything in the book through the narration of Pascual, we experience it in another way while watching the film by seeing the monotony of the setting and of the actions of the characters, the symbols, the hidden second meanings and hearing the music and sound effects.

I first hated the film but as I discovered the lots and lots of hidden things and symbols I more and more liked it and now I have to admit, that it is an extraordinary film for an attentive and demanding audience.

Bibliogaphy:

Patricia J. Santoro, Novel into Film: The Case of La familia de Pascual Duarte and Los santos inocentes, Associated University Presses, London, 1996

[...]


[1] Patricia J. Santoro, Novel into Film: The Case of La familia de Pascual Duarte and Los santos inocentes, Associated University Presses, London, 1996, pp. 15-6

[2] Patricia J. Santoro, Novel into Film: The Case of La familia de Pascual Duarte and Los santos inocentes, Associated University Presses, London, 1996, p. 55

[3] Patricia J. Santoro, Novel into Film: The Case of La familia de Pascual Duarte and Los santos inocentes, Associated University Presses, London, 1996, p. 56

[4] Patricia J. Santoro, Novel into Film: The Case of La familia de Pascual Duarte and Los santos inocentes, Associated University Presses, London, 1996, p. 71

[5] Patricia J. Santoro, Novel into Film: The Case of La familia de Pascual Duarte and Los santos inocentes, Associated University Presses, London, 1996, p. 98

[6] Patricia J. Santoro, Novel into Film: The Case of La familia de Pascual Duarte and Los santos inocentes, Associated University Presses, London, 1996, p. 87

[7] Patricia J. Santoro, Novel into Film: The Case of La familia de Pascual Duarte and Los santos inocentes, Associated University Presses, London, 1996, p. 59

[8] Patricia J. Santoro, Novel into Film: The Case of La familia de Pascual Duarte and Los santos inocentes, Associated University Presses, London, 1996, p. 91

[9] Patricia J. Santoro, Novel into Film: The Case of La familia de Pascual Duarte and Los santos inocentes, Associated University Presses, London, 1996, p. 91

[10] Patricia J. Santoro, Novel into Film: The Case of La familia de Pascual Duarte and Los santos inocentes, Associated University Presses, London, 1996, p. 127

Details

Pages
6
Year
2002
ISBN (eBook)
9783638287364
File size
431 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v26387
Institution / College
University College Cork – Spanish
Grade
1,8 (A-)
Tags
Comparison Familia Pascual Duarte Cinema Identity Spain Latin America

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Title: Comparison of novel and film: La Familia de Pascual Duarte