Spain 113 MedalsSpains film history is somewhat of an oppressed one. Like many of the larger European countries during the silent film era, Spain had a relatively weak output. The great surrealist Luis Bunuel teased with his nation, leaving to create the now renowned Un Chien Andalou in France, before returning years later to create the first Spanish film to make any waves, the surrealist piece Land Without Bread. Unfortunately it wasnt long before he left once more, this time to America. With no director at the ready to give Spanish cinema a dominant voice, the Franco government was soon in place to halt any film-making which was even remotely experimental. Thus Spanish cinema fell short, while countries around it such as France and Italy delved into their new waves, making huge bounds onto the international stage. Many films attempted to challenge Francos era with veiled attempts at critiques against his rule, but it was not until his death in 1975, that its film industry became liberated from the overt censorship. Nowadays Spanish film is thriving at home and abroad. With its cinema now under the European spotlight, talents such as Julio Medem and Bigas Luna, along with stars such as Penelope Cruz, Javier Bardem and Paz Vega, have gone on to develop a national cinema which regardless of its percieved lack of history, continues to impress. At the top of the bunch is, Pedro Almodovar, a man who has an obsession with the colour red and a penchant for sex of all varieties. He is the driving factor behind the nations more sexually charged cinema, broken from its oppressive chains and able to speak freely. Bronze - Pans Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro, 2006) Although directed by a Mexican, Del Toros film is an incredibly Spanish film. Much like Spirit of The Beehive, which I imagine was a big influence for Del Toro, Pans Labyrinth is set in the era of the Francoist regime. Ofelia, a young girl with a penchant for fairy tales, leaves with her heavily pregnant mother to meet the father, her new stepfather, Captain Vidal. A fascist captain who sniffs out rebels of the Franco regime, he is violent and calculated in his attempt to kill off any rebellion. To escape this violent way of life, Ophelia enters into her own enchanted and mythical world, and when she meets the now infamous creature: The Faun, he believes her to be princess Moanna reincarnated; a princess to the underworld. Giving her three tasks to complete before her affirmation is complete. Ophelia travels from reality to fantasy on a whim and gradually the line between fantasy and reality begin to blur, her actions in fantasy effecting her reality. Del Toros most beautiful film to date, Pans Labyrinth is a fairy tale with adult ramifications. Allowing Del Toro to show off his cosmetic strengths, it is surprising how much political mileage he draws out from his fantastical elements. This is a significant Spanish film which draws you in with its visuals, whilst making you listen with its narrative. Silver - The Spirit of The Beehive (Victor Erice, 1973) Made during the final few years of a tumultuous Franco regime, Spirit of The Beehive is a brilliant foray into a magical and fantastical realm, which had become a way of commenting on social and political problems in Spain. Using the 6 year old Ana as the protagonist, her relationship with her family is a commentary on life under a Francoist regime where its people had become isolated from the world, with a lack of intimacy to their nation. Isolated from her family (there is never a shot of her with her parents and sister altogether), she jumps at the chance to go to a travelling cinema showing Frankenstein, brought close to her home. She instantly becomes obsessed with the tale of Frankenstein and is told by her sister that she can communicate with the spirit of Frankenstein whenever she wants by closing her eyes and talking to him. Ana becomes more and more convinced that he is real. When a republican soldier seeks refuge in a nearby sheepfold, the Francoist regime enters the narrative with influential effect. With the soldiers story entering the narrative realm, Erice uses the story of Frankenstein not merely as a tool for the plot, but to make a social commentary on Spain. Frankenstein is a misunderstood monster accused of horrendous acts to fulfil a tyrannical urge. The soldier thus echos the story of Frankenstein, his supposed acts of rebellion make him stand as the accused who must be brought to justice. Yet there is no evidence of his horrific acts, he is shown as a man who is hiding from a justice that no one seems to understand, let alone Ana who takes a naive sympathetic interest in him. The narrative of both Frankenstein and the soldier, are an allegory for the Francoist regime which attempted to convince its public that the civil war was a necessity to rid Spain of the monster of socialism and liberalism; Frankenstein and the soldier. The Spirit of The Beehive is an essential film when looking at Spanish cinema, remaining Victor Erices finest work. Gold - All about my mother (Pedro Almodovar, 1999) Pedro Almodovar is quite clearly the Godfather of Spanish cinema, it is his films which have truly shaken off the shackles of a post Franco era. His ability to show no boundaries when it comes to sexualised narratives is both daring and brave, that he manages to do so with such humour and wit is a testimony to not only his directing but his writing as well. All About My Mother is a great example of this, based around Manuela who quits her job, to search for the transvestite father of her son, who dies at the beginning of the narrative in a road accident. Meeting many different characters, Manuela finds her sons father but under circumstances that interweave with many different people. Flamboyant and unpredictable, All About My Mother is a great example of a melodramatic flair that has come to define Almodovar. With a depressing narrative, he refuses any time to wallow in self-pity and while the audience is allowed to empathize with its characters, the witty script and vivid colour palette counteracts the dark and confrontational tone. Almodovar continues to dominate Spanish cinema and I imagine he will for the rest of his career. Refusing to take any steps towards Hollywood film-making, Almodovar remains devoted to his nationality, a trait that is extremely admiral in an industry increasingly influenced by globalization.