From director Humberto Solas comes the 1968 Cuban political drama Lucia, three stories from three different periods of the country’s history, each from a different woman’s perspective.
In the first, Lucia is the unmarried, middle-aged daughter of wealthy plantation owners. It is 1895, and the war of independence against Spain rages through the country. When the idle Lucia falls for a handsome spy, the war soon becomes a gritty reality as Lucia finds herself torn between love and loyalty. The episode ends with a brutal bloody battle between naked natives and Spanish invaders, witnessed by a horrified Lucia.
The second story takes place in 1932, during the dictatorship of Gerardo Machado y Morales. Pretty young Lucia, bored by her bourgeois existence, falls in love and marries the revolutionary Aldo. Told in flashback, the story shows how Lucia is drawn into Aldo’s world of demonstrations and bloody assassinations. But when Machado is ousted, the revolutionary party is soon overtaken by its own orgy of excess (in a brilliant nod to Bunuel and Fellini).
The final story takes place in the 1960s following the people’s revolution. Lucia is a farm-worker who marries revolutionary comrade, Tomas. Cuba’s most patriotic song Guantanamera is then used to illustrate Lucia’s journey as her happiness is soon destroyed by Tomas’ jealousy and abusive treatment.
Solas’ political trilogy is an illuminating insight into Cuban national identity, leading up to and following the revolution. At two-and-a-half hours long, it’s a lengthy process that needs to be watched in parts to fully appreciate.
The acting is stylised – if a little over theatrical; the cinematography and editing a mixture of documentary and the surreal; while Solas makes brilliant use of the locations – crumbling mansions, war ravaged towns, fog-shrouded mountains.
Watching this landmark in Cuban cinema, I felt I was seeing a true talent at work, and one who has taken note of the grand masters of the art form, especially the Marxist director, Pasolini, who he greatly resembles.