Can light bring a 16th-century sculpture back to life? Can film bring back the dead? These two questions serve as an introduction to this double bill.
José Val del Omar has been the best-kept secret of Spanish film for years. His films and cinematic and audio experiments remained in the dark like a hidden treasure. That is, until a few years ago, when the Museo Reina Sofía held an exhibition in his honour and repositioned him on the international stage. His films have fascinated the world ever since and raised the question: How did we not know about this amazing work before now?
Fuego en Castilla is the second chapter of his Elementary Triptych of Spain, and a profound and free film which has no qualms about blending pure experimentation with Castilian tradition, futurism and Holy Week imagery. In Val del Omar’s own words, the project would be “a somnambulant study using TactilVisión (an impulse-based system of illumination) about the religious sculptures of the French artist Juan de Juni and the Spanish artist Alonso de Berruguete, in a film which crosses from West to East, from jailbreak to ecstasy”. The power of it images and electro-acoustic soundtrack earned it special mention at Cannes in 1961.
Programming movies involves a bit of magic, confidence in the collision of images, and drawing comparisons between titles and themes, and so we wonder what would happen if we blended the living sculptures of Val del Omar with a classic Zombie movie. Well, that’s what we did.
Nurse Betsy Connell is hired by the owner of a sugar plantation on the Antillean island of San Sebastián to look after his wife, Jessica, who is confined to bed with a terrible and strange fever. Local residents say Jessica is a zombie, and this is when the investigation begins into the cause of her illness: black magic, voodoo, a complex family history, a curse by the descendants of African slaves?
The director of this legendary horror B-movie, Jacques Tourneur, devoted the work 100% to the poetic and suggestive power of sounds and images.
Fuego en Castilla
José Val del Omar, Spain, , 1960 20', OV with Spanish Subtitles
I Walked with a Zombie
Jacques Tourneur, Spain, , 1943 69', JBAES