Theatrical Space and Social Change in Carlos Saura’s
Los ojos vendados (1978)
Kevin M. Gaugler
Before a declaration of war on a foreign nation, the Romans performed a ritual with three theatrical stages: one platform was placed within Roman land, the second was positioned between the border of the empire and its enemy’s, and the third was carried within its adversary’s territory. Such a ritual, known as the fas ritual, created a necessary field for militant acts. Violence, it seems, required an invented space so that one socio-political order could pervade another (Certeau Practice 124). Theater and its space then, constitutes an entity that both defines a territory and provides a housing of legitimacy for riotous acts. (1)
Carlos Saura’s cinematic style exemplifies a similar use of theatrical space to induce social transformation. Marvin D’Lugo notes, "We need to see the essence of Saura’s art as an exploration of alternative practices, interventions both in cinema and culture, which seek to disengage the spectator from illusion" (35). Theater in Saura’s film, Los ojos vendados (Blindfolded eyes) (1978), achieves such a function since the inclusion of drama constructs new spaces that destroy and reorganize hegemonic cultural meanings, supports revolutionary acts and cultural reidentifications as much as violent acts themselves.
Throughout Saura’s work, Luis (José Luis Gómez), the director of a drama school, attempts to produce a play that simulates a symposium on political torture in which he once participated. His production, like the previous witnessed forum, informs a public imperceptive to these violent political activities. Emilia (Geraldine Chaplin), the wife of Luis’ dentist, becomes both the star of the play and the director’s lover when his acting classes teach her to ignore societal boundaries and scout new avenues.
All of Luis’ students, including Emilia, discover freedom through acting techniques that not only challenge an old world order, but involve an internal exploration of one’s past and one’s aspirations. Theater initiates both a movement toward social transformation and an exercise toward self-understanding. Saura’s film, in turn, merges spaces of physical reality with realms of the imagination. The movie removes the metaphorical blindfold that has prevented post-Francoist Spain from seeing beyond a single, fascist national order. The conceptual basis for the film has been attributed to both Saura’s participation in a forum on political torture and the beating of his sixteen-year-old son, Antonio, by a right-wing youth group. The director even dedicated the film to his child (D’Lugo 147-8). Los ojos vendados and its alternative spatialities consequently reflect Spain’s turbulent transition from Franco’s dictatorship to a functional democracy. Current events from 1978 are mirrored in the picture’s chaotic structure, riddled with violent acts and theatrical spaces that destroy previous social constructs and erect new post-dictatorial systems of meaning.
The movie opens with a forum where a French diplomat’s denunciation of "una escalada de violencia y de terror en el mundo" (an escalation of violence and terror in the world) takes place, establishing the need to bring about social awareness and change. Humanizing his address, the speaker introduces Inés, a torture victim who recounts her kidnapping and brutilization to the audience. Although Ines’ speech is not portrayed as performance, but as a true testimonial in an academic forum, one cannot ignore the theater space in which the victim speaks. Standing on a stage in the spotlight, the conventions of theater undermine the verisimilitude of her story as we remain amply aware of the space that surrounds her. Equally obvious, in narrating an abduction, the speaker must reconnect illogical events into a rational account by means of fanciful visions. The victim herself expresses an inability to remember details and distinguish actual events from dreamed ones. Gaps in memory naturally are filled with the speaker’s own imagination, resulting in a correlative exchange between actual and chimerical occurrences. Her story constitutes a mix of real and illusory happenings and thus is neither history nor fiction but the discourse of the in-between, of an Other realm, of a heterotopia.
As Inés congruously represents, contests and inverts her story in the first scene of Los ojos, Saura reminds the moviegoer of the space and community that surround Inés by incorporating in one close-up shot the reflection of the seated audience in the mirrored glasses that she wears to cloak her identity (D’Lugo 150). Society and its environment are literally reproduced in the victim’s face and her words serve a reflective function for a chaotic world and not an event isolated from reality and irrelevant to the community at large. The close-up of Inés’ face with the mirrored glasses embodies the theatrical union of a real-and-imagined blend of fiction and history in her testimony. Simultaneously the film exploits the framed image of the scene, the space of the theater and the rhetoric of the protagonist in the creation of an elsewhereness in which her face, place, and words cannot definitively be identified, situated or verified.
Luis, a member of the panel that sits behind Inés, obviously recognizes the theatricality of the moment, the ambiguity of the situation, and the importance of its purpose since he decides to replicate the same configuration as a play. The film’s final scene debuts this effort; Emilia plays Inés and Luis assumes the same location and function as in the real-life symposium, while the entire film constitutes a process toward the final product. The imitation becomes indistinguishable from the original testimony. Although one degree further from a concrete reality, the simulated event produces real and violent reactions in its public. Threatened several times not to continue with the work, the stubborn director ignores the ultimatum even when he and his apartment are assaulted and vandalized. In general terms, the film depicts the use of terrorism to abolish theater, just as we witness the utilization of theater to stop terrorism. Thus theater and terrorism compete for common territory--one entity continually endangering the very existence of the other.
As a whole, Los ojos vendados may be perceived as the process toward the theatrical reconstruction of its initial scene and the effect of such a project on the actors in the work and on their public. Though the centripetal inertia of the film moves from an initial scene through the process of simulating itself, the final sequence of Luis’ production ends differently from the initial forum. Emilia/Inés concludes her oration with a denouncement of oppressive governments, "Espero que este testimonio sirva para alterar la opinión pública para que condene a los regímenes militares, autoritarios y represivos [. . .]" (I hope that his testimony helps to sway public opinion to condemn military, authoritarian and repressive regimes. . .). Upon finishing her social condemnation, two men in the audience stand, draw automatic weapons, and spray the stage with bullets. A tracking shot sweeps the theater space to capture the frenzied spectators as they run, hide, and scream.
Theater and terrorism suitably converge in the film’s final frames to simultaneously produce discomfort, confusion, and the inability to recognize the verisimilitude of events. After the tracking shot of the screaming audience, the camera next remains fixed on a shot that perfectly frames the zone of the stage while the actors drop to the floor and lie still. Since the final point of view of the film originates from one of the audience’s seats, the moviegoer remains, for the final seconds of the picture, in the rows of the theater, wondering if the event just witnessed constituted part of the play or the result of Luis’ refusal to stop its production. Credits roll as the viewer struggles to identify the reality or fictionality of the scene.
Saura’s directorial eye manipulates conventions of theater to create the pull toward this final, enigmatic conclusion. As a result, the viewer of the film experiences similar confusions to that of the fictional characters who also cannot identify the essence of events. Articulating the audience’s experience, Emilia, dressed as Inés, recites the following statement in the final sequence, "No sé si lo que estoy contando ahora ha sucedido realmente o si me lo estoy imaginando. Tal es mi confusión" (I don’t know if what I’m saying now really happened or if I’m imagining it). Emilia’s comment refers, of course, to Inés’ abduction and her confusion created by her traumatic experience. In contrast to the origin of Inés’ puzzlement, the audience’s and the moviegoer’s disorientation is caused not by blindfolds and beatings, but by theatrical events and the creative manipulation of social orderings and identities. In short, the filmic structure’s ambiguous nature reflects the uncertainty constructed by theatrical space and the uneasiness of a people caught in ideological commotion.
Violent activism and theater in this film lead to communal vertigo. Moreover, chaos and bewilderment, as the title suggests, characterize the core of Los ojos vendados in which sightless and disoriented meanderings search blindly for the free world. To better comprehend the connection between a blindfolded person and the disorienting effects of theatrical space, one may turn to Kevin Hetherington’s theories on other or "heterotopic" spaces that "are not only about resisting, transgressing and making visible an alternative, they are also about ordering identities within conditions of uncertainty" (Expressions 138). For this reason the aimless wanderings of the film’s characters and the questioning of their place and purpose in various spaces of the world unmasks both the film’s structure and its symbolic relationship to the Spanish democratic transition.
Like the nation to which he belongs, Luis stands at a crucial set of crossroads. At home, plagued by insomnia, he wanders his apartment as a voiced-over monologue reveals his recollection of the most important moments in his life. He attempts to recall the faces and bodies of his ex-lovers as he stares at swirling black water that disappears into the abysmal pipe of his sink. A close-up of the the dirty water is juxtaposed with Luis’ blank gaze as he towels his dampened face. The mere act of washing has whisked him into a self-exploratory state in which the tormented director senses "escalofríos de desastre" for the first time in his life. Luis paces the room. Confused about the direction and purpose of his existence he affirms that he acts, "sin darme [darse] cuenta verdadera de por qué ni para qué había hecho las cosas" (without truly realizing why or for what I [he] did things). Later, Luis sits at his desk and writes the following question on a fresh sheet of white paper before crumpling it up and tossing it into the trash: "¿Es posible deslizarse por la vida así, impunemente?" (Is it possible to slide through life with impunity?) Naturally, his query never directly receives an answer since disorientation and the blindfold define the narrative structure of the film and the lives of its characters.
The director’s insomnia and his contemplative mood drive him downstairs to his studio where he trains individuals to find alterity within themselves and to become better performers. Within his atelier, actors argue with imaginary antagonists, transfer epileptic fits to one another, sleep on command, and visualize their own heart muscles. Outsiders like Emilia who enter the group of actors immediately comment that such behavior is for "locos" and initially reject the socially unacceptable conduct of experimental drama. Notwithstanding, Luis stresses to his pupils that they do not stand in the outerworld, highlighting the uniqueness of the zone in which they all dwell. He repeatedly chants, "Estamos aquí ahora" (We are here now).
Emilia’s surprise at the group’s activities and the necessity for Luis to remind his students of their present locale inspires the class to abandon societal constraints, relearn social behavior and reevaluate their self-perception from this current standpoint. Through Luis’ soothing discourse of encouragement, Emilia successfully integrates herself into the group’s antics and is absorbed by the alternative way of perceiving her surroundings. The film then centers upon Emilia’s transformation from a repressed woman to a liberated individual. In this regard, Los ojos vendados is about transitions; moreover, it is about theater’s role in transition.
Luis continues his lesson by explaining to the class his philosophical outlook on performance. He states, "Yo creo que hay que evitar cualquier énfasis teatral o histriónico y hay que establecer el contacto más directo y real posible con el objeto interior y con los recuerdos" (I believe that one must avoid any theatrical or histrionic emphasis and establish the most real and direct contact possible with the interior object and with memories). His comment not only recalls Inés’ testimony of her abduction, but it foreshadows the next chain of events in which Luis dresses in his best suit and visits the place of employment of his youth, a coal shop owned by Don Andrés. His costume, demeanor, and discourse project the persona of a wealthy executive. While there, Luis asks to see the shop’s basement for old times’ sake, an unusual request considering that down the stairs one only finds coal, cockroaches, and musty copies of smuggled French pornography.
Mounted at a low angle, the next shot features Luis’ legs in the shower as black soot runs off him and into the drain. A close-up of the blackened water parallels an earlier shot of Luis’ sullied sink. One soon realizes that Saura has created a leitmotif of the cleansing process in which Luis attempts to wash away a dark and dirty past. Luis jumps from the shower, prances down a corridor to a humble bedroom, and vigorously dries himself. His aunt enters the room and dries her nephew as the middle-aged man spouts adolescent jargon. Soon, the viewer becomes aware of Luis’ immersion into his past, reflected by both the antiqued misè-en-scène of the sequence and the appearance of Luis as he now looks in 1978.
Mutual toweling eventually leads to kissing and the disrobing of an incestual relationship that the protagonist carries through sleepless nights of adulthood. By means of theatrical practices, Luis both physically and mentally visits sites from childhood that enrich his acting abilities and cleanse his past for a brighter future. This process of reconstruction and salvation through theater, explained during one of Luis’ lectures, constitutes an operation in which fragmented memories can be recovered, reordered and reinterpreted through performance. Consequently, the filmic flashbacks of soiled water, the visit to the coal shop, Inés’ oral recapitulation of earlier atrocities and Luis’ self-help exercises, all direct themselves toward addressing the predicaments of a tarnished past.
Luis’ theories on the constructive imagination emphasize the use of theatrical space to reorganize established social-cultural constructs. (2) A scrutiny of the space in which he rehearses is therefore required. The design of his studio, a single room with plain white walls and a dancer’s mirror, supports the constructive function of his hypothesis on imagination and performance. Free of adornments, the space wipes clean external systems of meaning, just as his memories attempt to wash away the soot that taints him. Several windows line the room, but a curtain and carefully positioned lighting blur its surface to create a white haze that denies the existence of an esoteric environment. The mirror at one end of the room, furthermore, replicates the blank space of the studio and emphasizes the inward-pointing message of the teacher’s discourse and the filmic narrative. In short, the room’s spatiality allows one only to gaze at either nothing or back at oneself. Individuals inserted into this space must wipe away systems of meaning of the outside world and construct a new order from a clean zero point. The imagination constitutes the only available tool with which one can fill the empty space of this unsullied chamber. Thus, as Luis’ studio embodies his theories on the constructive imagination, Saura’s spatial constructs in the film capture the relationship between theater space and alternative social orderings.
Luis’ studio institutes an alternative to the old and unhealthy societal order and sanitizes it by melding reality and illusion on a clean surface. At one point Luis recounts a conversation with a nine-year-old girl in which he had asked her if nightmares influenced her with the same force as life experiences. The girl replied, "Sí, porque yo las sueño viviéndolas" (Yes, because I dream living them). He then instructs Emilia to relay Inés story as a combination of past, present and imaginary occurrences. By blending the everyday with the dream world, Luis’ performative concepts promote a core idea of elsewhereness. Objects within a heterotopia fail to be located and identified because they dwell in-between the here and the there. Accordingly, individuals can objectify the corrupted cultural system in which they live by residing elsewhere, in the zero point that neutralizes societal designs for its reconstitution.
Emilia’s life and its spaces, like those of Luis’, also represent the reconstitution of Spanish society during the transition. The film introduces these characters when Luis visits Emilia’s husband, Manuel, for a dentist appointment. Emilia greets Luis wearing mirrored glasses similar to those of the tortured Inés. She invites Luis in for a drink and removes her spectacles with an enthusiastic "TA-DA." Emilia then explains her recent plastic surgery to her eyes and her further desire to alter her surroundings and reinvent herself through acting lessons. As soon as Manuel escorts Luis into his office, Emilia repeats her recent conversation aloud to no one. The monologue appears to simply be an attempt to improve upon the inflection of her words.
This oppressed homemaker, then, views performative tactics as a means to escape her current state, just as Inés and Luis use theater as a means for change. Emilia’s aspirations for a career demonstrate her leftist perspective that yearns to free women from domestic life. Meanwhile, her husband who opposes her "entertaining hobby" represents the rightist, patriarchal perspective and, as a dentist, practices a form of torture. The filmic eye of the camera supports such an interpretation through a series of close-ups and the disproportionate volume of the dentist’s drill bit. First, Manuel adjusts an unusually bright light into Luis’ eyes, half-blinding him. Close-ups of the equipment to be used in the procedure follow a close-up of the patient’s agonizing visage. As the dentist removes the cavity, the sound of the drill dominates the sequence and images of Inés’ torture violate the screen. In the end, when the process has been completed, the camera zooms down as Luis leans over a clean white sink and stains it with red blood. Clearly, the film’s depiction of Manuel as a conservative and the juxtaposition of scenes of dentistry with that of violent torture, link Manuel’s position with the extremism of rightist groups of the transition such as FRAP or the Nueva Fuerza.
Since Manuel symbolizes the victimizer, Emilia represents (and eventually plays the role of) the victim. The initial sequence with Emilia underscores her repressive domestic situation and her desire for something else. Meanwhile, the use of the glasses instantly associates her with the tortured Inés. Furthermore, in the next room, the close-ups of her husband’s dentist drill as he prepares to remove Luis’cavities highlight the violent household conditions that plague Emilia’s world. The exaggerated shriek of the drill bit overtakes the filmic image as Luis imagines Inés’ abduction. Inés, however, in Luis’ mind, has assumed the appearance of Emilia. And so, Luis, like the moviegoer, recognizes the similarities between these two suffering women. One must also not overlook the fact that the film connects the two victims by a common remedy for their subordinate positions—-the utilization of theater to restructure hegemonic systems.
Emilia’s identity as a victim becomes solidified in a latter scene when she appears at Luis’ door after an argument about the role of Luis’ drama lessons in their relationship when Manuel reasserted his displeasure with the course and attempted to reinstate the previous domestic order through physical abuse. As she recounts the fight Emilia asks herself, "¿Cómo coño he podido aguantar a este imbécil tanto tiempo?" (How in the hell was I able to stand that imbecile for so long?) Here Emilia exposes her constant frustration with the marriage when she repeatedly willed herself to maintain patience: "Emilia, ten paciencia; ya verás como todo se arregla." (Emilia, have patience; you will see how everything will work itself out). Of course, the situation never fixed itself and her patience yielded few results.
Theater, therefore, provides the first opportunity in years for Emilia to experience an alternative life and redefine her identity. She clarifies to Luis, "Yo estoy intentando encontrarme a mí misma" (I am trying to find myself). Blindfolded by the lack of something else, Emilia could not have perceived the new world that dwelled just out of reach had it not been for Luis’ healthy exercises that blend the borders between the real and the imagined. Emilia, in fact, reveals to Luis that his lessons "me han abierto los ojos" (have opened my eyes) before kissing him. Apparently, acting instruction has given her the means to break away not only from her husband, but from the order of the conservative right in general, since she rejects the institution of marriage and lives out an adulterous relationship with her teacher.
Emilia’s oppressive situation and long awaited opportunity for change emulate a Spain only three years after its dictator’s death. The much-anticipated window for social transformation in which "everything would work itself out" finally became a reality in the years of the film’s production. The belief system of the conservative right crumbled as alternative identity structures of Marxism, feminism, and regionalism gained momentum. Such groups struggled to wipe away forty years of rightist ideology and begin anew. Highlighting such a desire for a clean slate, Emilia informs Luis before kissing him and breaking the codes of the old world order, "Vamos a empezar tú y yo desde zero. Vamos a contarnos todo. ¿De acuerdo? Vamos a empezar tú y yo limpios, honestos" (Let’s begin from zero. Let’s tell each other everything. OK? Let’s begin clean, honest). The couple then ignores the morality or immorality of their desires as a dance leads to foreplay and intercourse. Thus the promise to forget about past structures before breaking old moral codes and making love parallels the function of the empty space of the sterile basement studio that eliminates the preconceptions of the old world to embark on new, radical experimentations with the order of things. Just as Luis washes away his filthy memories, his studio purges previous forms of socialization and Emilia expunges the old before beginning again.
Later in the film, Luis discovers a picture of Emilia and Manuel dated November 1975, a historically significant month and year for Spain. On the twentieth of that month, naturally, the dictator, Francisco Franco, died, denoting a crucial turning point for the nation. The image of the stable, yet repressive relationship, juxtaposed with the current separation, highlights a clear division between life "before" and the chaos that came "after." In addition, the date reaffirms the analogy drawn between Emilia’s individual circumstances and Spain’s national crisis. She constitutes a woman who, in order to change her circumstances, embraces the world of "locos" just as the street protesters and regional terrorists of the age capitalized on the disorientation of its public to propel oppositionist agendas.
Connections established between Luis’ and Emilias’ uncertain situations and theatrical space in this study have now laid the groundwork for a further scrutiny of the film’s spatiality. Beyond the previous analysis of the architectonics of Luis’ basement, the work abuts closed spaces of alternative orderings (heterotopias) with the vast plains of the imagination. The movie, thus, centers not just on characters but on space. More specifically, the work utilizes spaces of both reality and the imagination to serve as healthy catalysts for social change within the margins of the larger world.
Repeatedly in Los ojos vendados, as the protagonists rehearse Inés’ dramatic story, the scene cuts to the open countryside of Castile. The initial appearance of this space occurs during Emilia’s first acting lesson. Her eyes tenderly meet with Luis’ as the shot jumps to the spot of their first encounter, a lonely road in the barren plains of central Spain. Luis drives into the framed shot of the Castilian landscape. He stops his car and staggers out of it, off the road, and into a nearby field where he drops from the agony caused by a kidney stone. Emilia and Manuel conveniently enter the scene from the opposing direction and stop to aid the ailing stranger. Later the film returns to the exact point on the roadside after jumping to a rehearsal of the play and to images of Inés’ torture, finally leading us to Luis and Emilia making love in the vacant field where they met. Hence, the empty field is juxtaposed with the empty room in Luis’ basement, highlighting it as a space of fresh, endless and uncorrupted possibilities where new and previously impossible relationships are formed and confirmed.
Saura continues the leitmotif of the open land of freedom when Emilia repeats these words from Luis’ play in her sleep, "Tenía los ojos vendados. No me acordaba de nada ni de quien era ni de quienes eran mis familiares" (I had blindfolded eyes. I didn’t remember neither who I was nor who my family was). The confusion of the situation leads her to an open meadow in her mind. She awakens to describe her recent dream in which she is suspended in time and space in an "enormous and empty place". In this vast world she finds a curtain that hides a mirror inside which a woman stands whom she fails to recognize as herself. Again, Emilia’s dream superimposes the open and empty space of her imagination with that of Luis’ plays and a connection is established between acting and the opening up of the boundless and unhindered human imagination. Furthermore, the mirror inside the curtain and Emilia’s inability to recognize her new self symbolizes the stage’s (and the mirrored glasses’) ability to alter identity. Reflective surfaces transform an individual into a signifier of that individual, and selfhood in this regard becomes an ambiguous combination of the signifier and the signified (Lefebvre 189). Theatrical space in the film, like a mirror against the world, reflects the environment only to transform it. Through Emilia’s exploration of this spatial allegory, the metaphorical blindfold is removed to reveal the new frontier of a better, freer life. Lefebvre affirms: "A revolution that does not produce a new space has not realized its full potential [. . .]" (54).
Perhaps the most revealing scene in the film regarding the profound significance of Other spaces occurs as Emilia shows a postcard of "Christina’s World", (Figure1) a painting by American realist, Andrew Wyeth. Wyeth’s most famous work depicts a paraplegic girl of the same hair color and length as Emilia’s lying in an empty field, gazing toward the farthest point on the horizon. Emilia explains to Luis her sentiments toward the image, "Sueño muchas veces con este paisaje" ‘I often dream about that landscape’. She breaks into tears as she affirms the uncertainty of her present circumstances, crying, "No sé a dónde voy; no sé nada [. . .]. Yo necesito otra cosa; no sé lo que es" ‘I don’t know where I’m going; I don’t know anything [. . .]. I need something else; I don’t know what it is’. The spatial dimensions in "Christina’s World" reinvigorate Emilia’s quest for self-transformation and another life. Furthermore, her understanding of the incapacity to reach a visible, but unreachable, horizon emphasizes Emilia’s feeling that her situation is going nowhere and Saura’s film again manipulates the concept of a utopic world erected through artistic constructs that provides endless possibilities for a repressed and handicapped society.
The sequence with the painting follows another rehearsal scene in which Emilia can barely recite the brutal descriptions of Inés’ torture. Wyeth’s painting is reproduced as one of the last shots of the film. Emilia, playing Inés in the final theatrical sequence, describes her release from the kidnappers at the point when her blindfold was removed for the first time since her abduction. The film cuts to a shot of Emilia in the same position and location as Christina, in an open field, gazing deep into the horizon. The shot reconstructs the space of "Christina’s World" as it fuses the visual images of Inés, Emilia and Christina into one woman viewed from behind. Next, a reverse shot displays another dimension of Wyeth’s painting—the face of the girl in the field. The camera frames an ambiguous Emilia-Inés’ as she absorbs the first images after the removal of her blindfold. The two-dimensionality of the painting multiplies into three as the film establishes a clear connection between freedom and the power of the artist to establish similar hiatuses of cultural transformation. As shots of the Castilian landscape reproduce Wyeth’s painting, the Castilian protagonists of Los ojos vendados reach this plain through the theatricalization of their being. The stage, then, juxtaposes itself with open lands of Otherness, unbound by the repressive system of totalitarianism.
As stated earlier theatrical topographies in ancient cultures ritualized violence so that killing was not viewed as amoral, but as a necessary action for the stability of the polis (Girard 1). The meaning of murder then varies in light of certain texts and when carried out within particular contexts. One thinker affirms:
In much decadent, modernist, and postmodernist fiction, then, homicide as play is presented as a creative act that shatters the normal boundaries of everyday reality and contributes to fashioning a new life, based on Dionysian, tragic principles where pleasure and suffering commingle indifferently in a joyful, ecstatic affirmation of all that it. (Spariosu 166)
Dionysus, in the philosophy of Frederich Nietzsche, signifies the creative-intuitive power that opposes Apollonian critical-rational power. The term "dionysian," moreover, is an adjective that has come to modify an ecstatic, orgiastic, frenzied and undisciplined nature of being. Murder and theater, in this sense, are complementary creatures. Their intrusion into a culture or a film produces chaotic results that decimate a stable actuality.
In the case of Spain, violent acts, especially those by the Francoist opposition, created a political atmosphere of frenzied chaos and ambiguity. The Spanish democratic transition may best be defined, in fact, through its arrests, trials, shootings, kidnappings and bombings. Extreme activism, however, would not hold political meaning without the accompaniment of some form of discourse. Politics "marks the realm of rational persuasion through speech and legitimate institutions," while violence "terminates the exchange of words" and "gains its effect through emotion" (Moss 86). Spaces of performance, in Los ojos vendados, house theatrical acts of violence to generate a terrain on which the separate realms of words and actions meet. Such is the connection between theater and violent acts in Carlos Saura’s film. As fictional entities persist to violate the most basic of moral codes entirely, societal orderings are born out of the ambiguous space of the theater. The inclusion of theatrical space not only blurs the division between the real and the imagined, it manipulates, like terrorist acts, social meanings of violence and the legislative distinction between right and wrong.
(1). Certeau states, "The fas ritual is a foundation. It ‘provides space’ for the actions that will be undertaken; it ‘creates a field’ which serves as their (the Roman’s) ‘base’ and their ‘theater’" (124). He relates such a spatial act to stories, affirming: "The founding [this base created by theater] is precisely the primary role of the story. It opens a legitimate theater for practical actions. It creates a field that authorizes dangerous and contingent social actions" (125).
(2). It is important to
note that Los ojos vendados (1978) is only one of many films in
which Saura integrates theatrical space into the plot. El jardín de
las delicias (1970), Elisa, vida mía (1976), Bodas de
Sangre (1981), Dulces Horas (1981) Carmen (1983), El
amor brujo (1986),¡Ay Carmela! (1989) Sevillanas (1992)
Flamenco (1995) and Goya en Bordeos (1999) constitute
just a few.