The Spanish Civil War is viewed as the first great war of images, whereby photography, film and graphic art materialised in various formats — war reportage, newsreels, illustrated magazines, urban posters — and, internationally, sought to persuade and mobilise foreign public opinion. Picasso did not remain cut off from such a media ‘bombardment’.
Setting out from this context, the Museo Reina Sofía will screen four films, shot between 1949 and 2012, which explore the relationship Guernica bears with documentary essay films. Given that each film entails a different model of documentary practice, the breadth and pliancy of the genre, and the numerous preoccupations kindled by Guernica in different periods, will be analysed.
The relationship between the mural and documentary film is ambivalent. Recent art history has interpreted Guernica as an attempt to consider painting through the cinema screen — certain key characteristics of the work are a case in point, for instance the black and white, the panorama, the search for a mass audience, and its location opposite a cinema in the Spanish Pavilion at the Paris World’s Fair in 1937, the event for which it was commissioned. In turn, documentary film approaches Guernica as though the painting not only went hand-in-hand with an event, but also witnessed and revealed it. Two considerations substantiate this idea: one, the universal transcendency of the work as an iconic image of an event in collective memory, what we could term its quality as a ‘monument’. And two, the fact that the work takes on the role of verista commonly associated with cinema and photography, representing a non-existent image of the mass media, of the bombing of civilians while it is happening; that which we could call its ‘documentary’ quality. How do the film-makers negotiate the paradoxical side of the painting, between allegory and index? What are the different ‘Guernicas’ that appear in these four essay films?
First session. Thursday, 22 June, 7pm
With a presentation by Guillermo G. Peydró
Second session. Friday, 23 June, 7pm.
Robert J. Flaherty. Guernica
United States, 1949, 35 mm transferred to DVD, silent, b/w, 10’
Put together from the pictorial space in the artwork, this film is an example of empirical documentary making. Flaherty was commissioned by MoMA and subsequently filmed Guernica, disregarding any external reference to the painting.
Alan Resnais and Robert Hessens. Guernica
France, 1950, 35 mm transferred to DVD, original version with Spanish subtitles, b/w, 13’
With a text by the poet Paul Éluard and the voice of Spanish actress María Casares, this film is one of the finest examples of documentary montage as it features a broad visual archive of Picasso’s work and other materials to formulate a poetic collage which adheres to the aesthetic perpetuation of Surrealism.
Iñaki Elizalde. Gernika
Spain, 1994, 35 mm, original version, b/w, 14’
With the collaboration of the Government of Navarra in the loan of a copy in 35 mm film, conserved in the Navarra Library and Film Library.
In relation to the rawness and violence of terrorism in the Basque Country, this film explores the ties between theatre and film, viewing Guernica as the manifestation of constant and fated conflict. Elizalde uses a tableaux-vivant to shift the pictorial symbol to the field of reality.
Guillermo G. Peydró. The Guernica Variations
Spain, 2012, AD, original version, colour, 26’
What relationship is there between Guernica, its present-day viewer and the different manifestations of contemporary war? Based on the 2012 lecture given by T. J. Clark in the Museo Reina Sofía, Peydró weaves the work into a complex and informative, subjective and military fabric.