Golden Age

   The 17th century was a key period for Spain's cultural identity, one that determined its fate as a nation. The year 1492 is a landmark in Spanish history that marks the political rise of the country (at that time made up of the union of different kingdoms under the Catholic monarchs) in the international scene: Granada was taken back from the Moors, thus ending a 700-year coexistence between Christian and Islamic cultures; the Jews were forced to convert to the Christian faith under threat of expulsion from the country; the first grammar of the Spanish language was published, and, perhaps most importantly, Christopher Columbus' nautical expedition, funded by the Castile government, reached a land that would later be known as America, starting a period of conquest. In 1550, the rule of Emperor Charles I extended across three continents, and it was claimed proudly that "the Sun never set" on Spanish territories. Spain was at that time the center of the civilized world, and it attracted scientists, architects, and artists from all nations.
   In 1588, the formerly invincible Spanish Armada was defeated by England at Trafalgar, and the country's military power started a long decadence that was reflected in the arts and literature of the period. The momentous cultural changes brought on by the rise and fall of Spanish political and economic power encouraged a flourishing of the arts in the Iberian Peninsula that has been known as the Golden Age, particularly in the fields of literature and painting. Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote was published in 1605. It was the period of Luis de Góngora's beautiful and obscure poems and of Francisco de Quevedo's acerbic satires. Theater flourished, with plays by Félix Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina and, later, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, represented in corral de comedias. The Elizabethan tradition in England paled by comparison at the time. The achievements of the period have eventually been reflected on film in different ways: in straightforward representations of the period, dealing with social or historical issues; in adaptations from literary works; and also in taking up the artistic heritage of a wealth of styles and themes. As examples of the latter, the style of painters such as Diego de Velázquez and Francisco Zurbarán has been a source of inspiration for cinematographers like Teo Escamilla and Luis Cuadrado, and critics have traced the origins of Spanish costumbrismo and its focus on Realism to Golden Age painting and literature.
   Given the drama the period suggests, it is interesting to note that realistic narratives set the 16th and 17th centuries were not very frequent for several decades in Spanish cinema. In particular, it could be expected that Francoist cinema would take up the wealth of references for its agenda to reinforce a certain heroic national identity. But this was done very selectively and not very often. In any case, as one could expect, the glory days of the discovery of America and the traditional values represented by the Reyes Católicos, or "Catholic Monarchs," were preferred to the conflictive, critical "Golden Age," for instance in Alba de América (Dawn of America, Juan de Orduña, 1951). Otherwise, culturally and politically, the period was considered too politically sensitive to deal with, and historical epics lost critical favor.
   The potential of the period would only be mined in recent years. Imanol Uribe had a hit (rewarded with Goyas) with El rey pasmado (The Baffled King, 1991), and the celebrations of 1992 made easier the production of such projects as La marrana (The Sow, José Luis Cuerda, 1992). In that year, Spanish institutions contributed to fund two further retellings of the Columbus expedition: 1492. The Conquest of Paradise (Ridley Scott, 1992) and Christopher Columbus, The Discovery (John Glen, 1992). From then on, the courtly intrigues, religious troubles, and battles of the period of Spanish decadence finally started to find their way into film. The most important film inspired by the Golden Age may have been Alatriste (Agustín Díaz Yanes, 2006), based in a series of novels by Arturo Pérez Reverte and chronicling the life of an adventurer in the service of the Crown who witnesses the decadence of the Spanish Empire.
   Most of the narratives set in the Golden Age are adaptations from literary works produced in the period. Cervantes's masterwork has been adapted (logically, always in very abridged versions) a number of times in Spanish cinema. Rafael Gil's and Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón's versions (1947 and 2002, respectively) are examples of both the Francoist and the democratic attitudes to the character. Orson Welles attempted a version that was partly shot in the country, and Terry Gilliam also made an unfinished attempt, as chronicled in his film Lost in La Mancha (2002). Finally, an ambitious animated TV series encompassed the whole of the novel, directed by Cruz Delgado in 1978. After Cervantes, playwright Lope de Vega has been adapted most often. Fuenteovejuna was a particular favorite of Francoism (one important version was shot in 1947, directed by Antonio Román), as it could be interpreted as a revolution against tyranny in favor of traditional power authorities. Plays by Calderón, such as El alcalde de Zalamea, were also made into films (in 1954, directed by José Gutiérrez Maesso) that could contribute to the Francoist ideological project. After Franco, Golden Age adaptations become even more scarce. El perro del Hortelano (The Dog in The Manger, 1996), Pilar Miró's adaptation of Lope's play, was important because it was interpreted as a return of the genre, but only La dama boba (The Dumb Lady, Manuel Iborra, 2006) followed less successfully 10 years later.
   Historical Dictionary of Spanish Cinema by Alberto Mira

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Golden age — Golden Gold en (g[=o]ld n), a. [OE. golden; cf. OE. gulden, AS. gylden, from gold. See {Gold}, and cf. {Guilder}.] [1913 Webster] 1. Made of gold; consisting of gold. [1913 Webster] 2. Having the color of gold; as, the golden grain. [1913… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • golden age — golden ages N COUNT: oft N of n A golden age is a period of time during which a very high level of achievement is reached in a particular field of activity, especially in art or literature. You grew up in the golden age of American children s… …   English dictionary

  • golden age — golden ,age noun singular a period of time in the past when something was the most successful: the golden age of British industry …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • Golden Age — n., adj. [after L (Ovid) aurea aetas] 1. Gr. & Rom. Myth. the early age in which mankind was ideally happy, prosperous, and innocent 2. [g a ] a period of great progress, prosperity, or cultural achievement 3. [g a ] of or for golden agers …   English World dictionary

  • golden age — ► NOUN 1) an idyllic, often imaginary past time of peace, prosperity, and happiness. 2) the period when a specified art or activity is at its peak …   English terms dictionary

  • Golden age — The term Golden age is best known from Greek mythology and legend but can also be found in other ancient cultures (see below). It refers either to the highest age in the Greek spectrum of Iron, Bronze, Silver and Golden ages, or to a time in the… …   Wikipedia

  • golden age — 1. the most flourishing period in the history of a nation, literature, etc. 2. Class. Myth. the first and best of the four ages of humankind; an era of peace and innocence that finally yielded to the silver age. 3. (usually caps.) a period in… …   Universalium

  • Golden Age —    The 17th century was a key period for Spain s cultural identity, one that determined its fate as a nation. The year 1492 is a landmark in Spanish history that marks the political rise of the country (at that time made up of the union of… …   Historical dictionary of Spanish cinema

  • Golden Age — Lucas Cranach d.Ä.: Das Goldene Zeitalter, um 1530 Goldenes Zeitalter (griechisch chrýseon génos, lateinisch aurea aetas oder Saturnia regna für Herrschaft Saturns ) ist ein Begriff aus der antiken griechischen Mythologie. Er bezeichne …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • golden age — A myth of the original condition of humanity, first found in the Works and Days of Hesiod. It is identified with the time of Kronos, before Zeus began to rule (in Roman mythology, the time of Saturn). Justice and honesty ruled, there was no… …   Philosophy dictionary

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