Volver: Screening the Past in Spanish Cinema (MLS3055)

StaffProfessor Sally Faulkner - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

You will be able to explore the deployment of genres like costume drama, documentary and melodrama, and analyse the use of film form, such as mise en scène (including casting), sound, editing and cinematography. You will be able to analyse shifting and intertwined historical and theoretical contexts. You will study films that range from politically oppositional cinema under the Franco dictatorship to the re-negotiation of identity through historical film in democracy. You will consider production contexts to arrive at an understanding of how films get made (its financing, distribution and exhibition as well as the ways the director and creative teams were trained). You will explore the cultural theory that surrounds the richly suggestive questions that arise when considering Spanish historical film: What does ‘dissent’ mean in varying contexts? Is ‘nostalgia’ always ideologically suspect? What is a ‘middlebrow’ film? What are the implications of Spanish ‘heritage’ cinema? What are ‘postcolonial’ questions in Spanish cinema?

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate detailed knowledge of the chosen films and an understanding of their significance in the broader historical and cultural contexts in which they were produced.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 2. After initial input from the course tutor, apply and evaluate critical approaches to the material under analysis independently.
  • 3. Argue at length and in detail about an aspect of a selected topic, supporting the argument with evidence from the film(s) and with opinions from secondary literature.
  • 4. Use a range of film-critical terminology, applying it to independently researched material as well as to material introduced by the course tutor.
  • 5. Access and use critically printed and, where appropriate, electronic learning resources identified as useful by the course tutor; find independently and evaluate critically other relevant resources.
  • 6. Analyse films from a variety of genres and styles, showing an awareness of their relation to the historical and cultural context in which they were produced, and present the results orally and in writing.
  • 7. Demonstrate advanced skills of visual literacy, e.g. an understanding of the role of film genre and an ability to distinguish and evaluate techniques of mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing and sound editing.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. Negotiate individual assessment tasks and/or topics with course tutor, identifying own areas of strength and interest.
  • 9. Using bibliographical material provided, select, plan and carry out a programme of study leading to an essay / presentation on a chosen topic, to a specified length and deadline.
  • 10. Undertake independent research tasks on the basis of a taught course.
  • 11. Adopt a critical approach to the selection and organisation of a large body of material in order to produce, to a deadline, a written or oral argument of some complexity.

Syllabus plan

This module analyses the means by which Spanish directors, or directors working in Spain, have negotiated the past in their films, and the meanings of these endeavours. We will analyse key examples, paying particular attention to genre, film form, historical contexts and cultural theory. We will consider key genres and trends in Spanish historical film: negotiating the trauma of Civil War; heritage cinema and post-colonialism.

Introduction. I: Historical contexts: the Franco dictatorship; the Transition; democracy. II: Film Studies questions: ‘historical film’; heritage cinema; postcolonial film.

Our five key films may vary depending on availability, but might typically include:

The return of the Civil War: La caza (The Hunt Saura 1965)

The child in world cinema: El espíritu de la colmena (Spirit of the Beehive Erice 1973).

Transnational film: El laberinto del fauno (Pan's Labyrinth Del Toro 2006)

Heritage cinema: El perro del hortelano (The Dog in the Manger Miró 1996) 

Postcolonial questions: También la lluvia (Even the Rain Bollaín, 2011)

Module Review

Alternative films/ TV series might include: Raza (Race 1941Saénz de Heredia) Canciones para después de una guerra (Songs for after a War Patino 1971[1976]); La plaza del diamante (Diamante Square Betriu 1982); Belle Epoque (Fernando Trueba 1992); Cuéntame cómo pasó(Tell me How It Happened TV series; various 2001-); Volver (Almodóvar 2006).

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Lectures10Lectures will be used to provide a framework within which key ideas, events and selected films will be studied, and to outline the main themes and techniques employed by directors
Seminars5Seminars will give students the opportunity to explore the points raised in the lectures and develop their own ideas about them through group presentations and close textual analysis. Group presentations will be based on specific topics and tasks, the latter ranging from analyses of critical material to interpretations of selected scenes from the films. These will be followed by question and answer sessions leading to discussions in which all students will be expected to participate.
Screenings105 film screenings
Private study124This is the majority of a students’ time. It will be spent in private viewing of the films; reading; planning and writing essays and revising, where relevant. Students will also be assigned a Study Group with which they will prepare a presentation for one of the films studied on the module.
Conclusion1End-of-session conclusion hour

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Sequence analysis500 wordsAllWritten comments from convenor; meeting with convenor.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1003000 words1-13Essay Feedback Sheet

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
1 x 3000 Word Essay1 x 3000 Word EssayAllref/def period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

General reading:

Bentley, Bernard,  A Companion to Spanish Cinema, Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2008

Delgado, Maria and Robin Fiddian (eds) Spanish Cinema 1973 - 2010: Auteurism, Politics, Landscape and Memory, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013

Dennison, Stephanie (ed), Contemporary Hispanic Cinema: Interrogating the Transnational in Spanish and Latin American Film, Woodbridge: Tamesis, 2013

Faulkner, Sally, A History of Spanish Film: Cinema and Society 1910-2010, New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013

Jordan, Barry, and Mark Allinson, Spanish Cinema: A Student's Guide,  London: Hodder Arnold, 2005

Labanyi, Jo and Tatjana PavloviÄ? (eds), A Companion to Spanish Cinema, Malden: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013

PavloviÄ?, Tatjana and others, 2009, 100 Years of Spanish Cinema, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009 

Triana-Toribio, Núria, Spanish National Cinema, London: Routledge, 2003

Wright, Sarah, The Child in Spanish Cinema, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013

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Key words search

Spanish cinema; historical cinema; political dissent; the Transition; nostalgia; middlebrow cinema; heritage; postcolonialism