Family as Allegory in Italian and Spanish Cinema

Essay, 2010

19 Pages, Grade: 1,2


Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations

1 Introduction

2 An Uncertain Future

3 The Change of Values

4 Old Versus New

5 Dysfunctional Family as an Allegory to the State

6 Conclusion

7 Filmography

8 Bibliography

List of Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

1 Introduction

The family as an institution that is accountable for raising responsible and mature adults who become representatives of their societies is a key principle of social organisation (Bernardes 1997: 2, Hill 1998: 63). For children, familial life is the very first experience of social relations, through which they become part of a larger community. The intertwining of the levels of human aggregation can be studied ‘as the complex mechanisms around which the history of a nation is constructed’ (Ginsborg 2003: xiii ). Thus, analysing the state of the family is an effective vehicle for tracing social and cultural conflicts within a nation. In respect thereof, this essay is aimed to explore the metaphoric effect of the families displayed in Amelio’s Il ladro di Bambini and Saura’s Cría Cuervos .

Amelio, on the one hand, seizes on the cinematic tradition of neorealism by setting his story amongst the disadvantaged members of Italian society (Baldassare 1999: 7-10). With a documentary impulse, he offers a sight at modern-day conflicts in Italy (Millicent 1999: 59). Following the neorealist tradition, Ladro shows a dysfunctional family that mirrors the harsh reality of the modern Italian nation with her weaknesses and shortcomings. Saura, on the other hand, due to the limitations of censorship, faced more difficulties in making a film that follows a critical neorealist approach like many European directors did at that time (Toribio 2003: 2, Delgado 1999: 38). However, inspired by the European Auteurist cinema, he was induced by his will to respond to the Franco dictatorship through his films (D’Lugo 1991: 8). Saura manages to put across his political opinion by applying alternative ways of expression and diverges from a social realist approach to circumvent censorship (Bentley 2008: 214). Therefore, Cría harbours psychoanalytic approaches, relying on motifs such as memory (Hopewell 1986: 135). Saura allegorically accuses political regulations of the Franco regime and indicts the oppression of that time (Toribio, 2003: 29). Also, Saura’s cinema profited from Spain’s need to introduce herself abroad as a modern and liberal state that should trigger foreign investment and tourism to counteract the country’s economic deficiency (Toribio, 2003: 14).

This essay attempts to analyse how the families displayed in Ladro and Cría can be used to explore the state of the Italian and Spanish nation. Thus, in the second chapter the family shall be looked at as the base of social aggregation in the sense of Aristotle and de Bonald. Moreover, in chapter three the emphasis lies on the different generations in the two films that represent the countries’ cultural, social and political changes. In chapter four, the contrast between old and modern that results from these changes will be looked at in more detail. Furthermore, chapter five will pursue the afore-mentioned issues with the focus on the dysfunctional family as a social and political metaphor. Lastly, chapter six shall conclude the essay with a retrospective analysis.

2 An Uncertain Future

Already in ancient times, family has been observed as an institution strongly interlinked with the notion of state and nation. According to Aristotle, the family is the root of social aggregation (Pannenberg 1985: 445). In this sense, he promoted the idea that human ties are seated in the family institution. In a similar sense, Louis de Bonald (1991) sees the traditional family ideal as a paragon for state. His model is based on the perception that the breakup of a family goes hand in hand with the disintegration of the state. This suggests that a nation can only function properly with the families constituting it being intact.

In this respect, Ladro and Cría appear suitable to explore the conflicts in Italy and Spain through the state of the family. In both films the family unit is destructed, which is reflected by the loss of a parent. The separation from mother and father mirrors lost cultural and national traditions. Without a leading father or mother figure in their lives, the children characters question where they come from and where they are going. Such as the childrens’ future in Ladro and Cría is uncertain, both Italy of the 1990s (Martin 1996) and Spain after Franco’s death faced a big question mark regarding their future (Payne 1987).

The pre-narrative of Ladro implies the illusionistic vision of an opulent North that triggered a huge migration wave from the South in the 1950s (Ginsborg 2003: 210 et seq.). This illusion mirrors the deceptive representation of people and institutions around which the narrative develops. While Southerners believed in the utopia of the North, the reality of opulence was only prepared for a few. This led to a mismanagement of the country and eventually resulted in the anni di piombo in the 1970s (Ginsborg 2003: 348 et seq.) that further complicated the life of Southern immigrants, which is portrayed by the destructed Scavanello family. The crisis was eventually followed by the second economic boom in the 1980s that led to a modernisation process in legal and economic theory. Italy experienced the arrival of globalisation and became a media-dominated consumer society (Ginsborg 2002: 71). The principle grounds of Italian society underwent drastic modifications and enormous changes in cultural values took place. However, they were not easily reconcilable with the authoritarian structures of the old institutions (Martin, 1996), which again implies the mode of seeming vs. being. This social reality of uncertainties and conflicts is represented by Rosetta [Valentina Scalici] and Luciano [Giuseppe Ieracitano], the children characters in Ladro . Abandoned by the father, taken away from the mother and turned down by the Catholic children’s home, the siblings face an uncertain future, the same future that modern Italy was confronted with (Rascaroli 2005: 269-271). Similarly, after Franco’s death in 1975, the prospects of Spain were unclear. The principle grounds of Franco’s Spain, constituting on the loyalty to fatherland, faith and family, stood in contrast to new ideologies that were brought about through Spain’s opening to the modernising world (Payne 1987). In this respect, in Cría , Ana’s [Ana Torrent] future after the Franco regime is unknown. This is represented by the mis-en- scéne showing adult Ana sitting against a blank wall, implying an uncertain future (Bentley, 2008: 216) (18 min ff).

3 The Change of Values

The family, as the core of the social structure of a nation, had great idealistic significance in pre-modern Italy as well as in Franco’s Spain. Providing stability and support, the ideal family was a symbol for preeminence of the countries’ society (Shiel 2006: 57, Payne 1987: 199). In Italy, with the introduction of human and feminist rights in the 1980/90s, social changes took place, such as modified legal regulations in marriage, divorce and abortion. Consequently, the values of the traditional family altered (Ginsborg 2002: 71). In Spain, too, traditional ideologies of the Franco era started to become no longer easily tenable by the regime. The economic underperformance in the 1950s forced Spain to end its policy of isolation. Thus, rigid regulations and isolation needed to be loosened and Spain had no alternative but to slowly open towards Europe (Toribio 2003: 71).


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Family as Allegory in Italian and Spanish Cinema
University of St Andrews
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Family, Allegory, Italian, Spanish, Cinema
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Robert Stolt (Author), 2010, Family as Allegory in Italian and Spanish Cinema, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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