Luis García-Berlanga Marti in Valencia, 12 July 1921.
Studied at Jesuit school, Switzerland; Valencia University; IIEC (School
of Cinema), Madrid, 1947–50.
Served in División Azul (Blue Division) of Spanish volunteers with
German forces on Russian front, early 1940s.
Painter and poet, 1942–47; with Antonio Bardem, directed first
film, 1951; several projects banned by censor, 1950s; began collaboration
with writer Rafael Azcona on
, 1961; professor at IIEC, 1970s; president of Filmoteca Nacional, 1980s.
Paseo sobre una guerra antigua (as IIEC student); Tres cantos (IIEC student); El circo (+ sc, ed) (IIEC student)
Esa pareja feliz ( That Happy Couple ) (co-d, ph, co-sc)
¡Bienvenido, Mr. Marshall! ( Welcome, Mr. Marshall ) (+ co-sc)
Novio a la vista ( Fiancé in sight ) (+ co-sc)
Calabuch (+ co-sc)
Los jueves, milagro ( Thursdays, Miracle ) (+ co-sc)
Plácido (+ co-sc)
"La muerte y el leñador" ("Death and the Woodcutter") episode of Las cuatro verdades (+ co-sc)
El verdugo ( The Executioner ; Not on Your Life ) (+ co-sc)
Las pirañas (+ co-sc)
Vivan los novios ( Long Live the Bride and Groom ) (+ co-sc)
Tamaño natural ( Life Size ) (+ co-sc)
La escopeta nacional ( The National Rifle ; The Spanish Shot-gun ) (+ co-sc)
Cuentos eróticos ( Erotic Tales ) (collectively directed)
Patrimonio nacional (+ co-sc)
Nacional III (+ co-sc)
La Vaquilla (+ co-sc)
Moros y cristianos (+ co-sc)
Todos a la cárcel ( Everyone off to Jail ) (+ co-sc)
Blasco Ibáñez (mini for TV)
París Tombuctú (+ co-sc)
Sangre y luces (Muñoz) (sc) (Spanish–language version of Georges Rouquier's Sang et lumières )
Familia provisional (Rovira Beleta) (co-sc)
No somos de piedra ( We Are Not Made out of Stone ) (Summers) (role)
Sharon vestida de rojo (Lorente) (role)
Apunte sobre Ana ( Memorandum on Ana ) (Galán) (role)
Cuentos Eroticos De Navidad , Berkeley, 1999.
"The Day I Refused to Work," in Films and Filming (London), December 1961.
"Cara a cara . . . Bardem—Berlanga," in Cinema 2002 (Madrid), July/August 1980.
"Berlanga Life Size," interview with Katherine Kovacs, in The Quarterly Review of Film Studies (Pleasantville, New York), Spring 1983.
Bagh, P. von, "Sensuuri, symbolit, sota," an interview with P. von Bagh in Filmihullu (Helsinki), no.8, 1989.
Santolaya, Ernesto, Luis G. Berlanga , Vitoria, 1979.
Perucha, Julio Pérez, Sobre Luis G. Berlanga , Valencia, 1981.
Higginbotham, Virginia, Spanish Film under Franco , Austin, Texas, 1988.
Deveny, Thomas G., Cain on Screen: Contemporary Spanish Cinema , Lanham, 1999.
Cobos, Juan, "Spanish Fighter," in Films and Filming (London), February 1958.
" Grandeur nature ," in Avant-Scène du Cinéma (Paris), November 1974.
Les, J. Hernandez, "Luis Berlanga aujourd'hui et hier," in Jeune Cinéma (Paris), April/May 1979.
Acosta, J.L., "Berlanga—B. Wilder: Buscando un punto común," in Cinema 2002 (Madrid), April 1980.
Marías, Miguel, "El Patrimonio de Berlanga," in Casablanca (Madrid), April 1981.
Guarner, José Luis, "Luis G. Berlanga," in International Film Guide 1981 , London, 1982.
"Spanish Cinema Section" of Cinéma (Paris), June 1984.
Screen International (London), 25 June 1988.
Guarner, J.L., "Bunuel ja perilliset," in Filmihullu (Helsinki), no. 8, 1989.
Filmihullu (Helsinki), vol. 6, no. 17, 1995.
* * *
For many years in Spain strict censorship guidelines inhibited the development of a vital and creative film industry. The first original auteur of the post-Civil War period was Luis García Berlanga. When he began to make movies in the early 1950s, Berlanga and fellow filmmaker Juan Antonio Bardem were referred to as the two palm trees in the desert of Spanish film. Since then, and in spite of the fact that he could make relatively few films under Franco, Berlanga has remained one of Spain's foremost talents.
In the early years, the most important influence on Berlanga's filmmaking was Italian neo-realism. At the Conversations of Salamanca (1955) Berlanga and other young directors enthusiastically supported it as an antidote to Francoist cinema, a way of making authentic films that dealt with the everyday problems of ordinary people. From his first movie, Esa pareja feliz , which he co-directed with Bardem in 1951, to his "trilogy" on the Spanish aristocracy, Berlanga has remained true to the spirit of Salamanca.
In many movies he has exposed the pitfalls of Spanish society and satirized those institutions or individuals who take themselves too seriously, often using black humor to deflate their pretentions. Berlanga's sympathies are with the underdogs of whatever social class, those who are victims of fate, institutions, or other forces they cannot control. In a number of his films we follow the efforts of an individual who wants to achieve something or attain some goal, struggles to do so, and in the end is defeated, ending up in the same or in a worse situation than before. This unfortunate outcome reflects Berlanga's pessimism about a society in which the individual is powerless and in danger of being devoured. There are no winners in Berlanga's movies; all of the victories are Pyrrhic. But never one to deliver messages or lessons, Berlanga expresses his pessimistic viewpoint with such verve, vitality and humor that audiences leave the theatre elated with the spontaneity and inventiveness of his films.
Berlanga prefers working with groups of characters rather than concentrating on the fate of a single protagonist. Rarely does one individual dominate the action. Usually we move from one person to the next so that our point of view on the action is constantly shifting. This approach is supported by Berlanga's distinctive camera style. He tends to use very long takes in which the camera surreptitiously follows the movement of the characters, the shot lasting as long as the sequence. (In Patrimonio nacional there are some takes that last six or seven minutes.) These sequences are not, however, the carefully arranged and choreographed efforts of a Jancsó. As Berlanga explains it, until he begins shooting he has no specific setup in mind: "What I do is organize the actors' movements and then tell the cameraman how to follow them. When we bump into some obstacle, we stop shooting." In shooting the often feverish activities of his characters in this way, Berlanga gives a fluid, spontaneous feeling to his films. His predilection for these shots expresses what Berlanga calls his "god complex"—his desire to be everywhere at once and to express the totality of any scene.
In his scrutiny of contemporary Spanish life, Berlanga is also attached to much older Spanish literary and cultural traditions, most notably to that of the picaresque novel, in which a pícaro or rogue is thrust out into the world and forced to fend for himself. At the bottom of the social heap, the pícaro is afforded "a worm's eye view" of society and learns to be tricky in order to survive. The pícaro keeps hoping and waiting for a miracle, a sudden change in fate that will change his or her fortune in one stroke. Berlanga's pícaros , whether they be naive like Plácido ( Plácido ) or noble like the Marquis of Leguineche ( Patrimonio nacional ), share the same hopes and tenacious desire to survive. These characters, like Berlanga himself, are deeply attached to Spanish cultural traditions. In fact, one might even consider Berlanga to be a sort of picaresque hero who managed to survive the vagaries of the Franco regime and its system of censorship. A popular director since ¡am;Welcome Mr. Marshall! , Berlanga has gone on to even greater success since Franco's death with La escopeta nacional , a satiric look at a hunting party of Spain's notables during the Franco regime. In this irreverent and amusing comedy and in its two sequels, Berlanga introduced himself and his vision of his country to a new generation of Spaniards.
—Katherine Singer Kovács