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Spanish Cinema

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Cultural Project 2 – Spanish Cinema

For the Cultural Project 2 assignment I decided to continue my exploration of Spanish cinema. I searched for a movie that would include historical events that could broaden my knowledge of the Spanish culture. I chose the Spanish-American film entitled “Goya’s Ghosts” because of the historical relevance the time period had on Spanish culture. The film included references to the Spanish Monarchy, the influence of the Catholic Church, the Spanish Inquisition, French Revolution, and a renowned Spanish painter named Francisco Goya. “Although the historical setting of the movie was based on actual historical events, the movie itself is a work of fiction”(Goya’s).

The setting for Goya’s Ghosts begins in Spain in the year 1792. The Catholic Church is “disturbed by prints, created by an artist named Francisco Goya, that are being circulated around the country depicting the clergy using unflattering imagery”(Francisco). There is a long discussion on how the Church should handle the situation, when Brother Lorenzo intervenes. He suggests that “the artist’s depiction is insight into a bigger problem and should be handled by increasing the pressure the church applies to finding people who do not believe in their faith”(Spanish).

“The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition (Spanish: Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición), commonly known as the Spanish Inquisition (Inquisición española), was a tribunal established in 1480 by Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. It was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms, and to replace the Medieval Inquisition which was under Papal control. The Inquisition was originally intended in large part to ensure the orthodoxy of those who converted from Judaism and Islam. This regulation of the faith of the newly converted was intensified after the royal decrees issued in 1492 and 1501 ordering Jews and Muslims to convert or leave.”(Spanish) Brother Lorenzo was appointed the task of rejuvenating the practices of the Spanish Inquisition. I thought that there were strong similarities in comparing the Spanish Inquisition with other countries that went through some form of religious “witch hunt”. Although Brother Lorenzo is using the artist’s prints as a spring board into gaining more power in the church, he also has commissioned Goya to paint his self portrait. During the initial sitting with Goya, Brother Lorenzo inquires about a model he uses named Ines. She turns out to be a rich merchant’s daughter (Tomas) that has been identified by Inquisition spies as a possible “judiazer”(spreading Jewish rituals). Using undercover spies was a tactic used by the Inquisition to identify people they wanted to question and charge with crimes against the church. “Various motives have been proposed for the monarchs' decision to fund the Inquisition such as increasing political authority, weakening opposition, suppressing conversos, profiting from confiscation of the property of convicted heretics, reducing social tensions and protecting the kingdom from the danger of a fifth column”(Spanish). Ines is called to the Holy Office for questioning because she was seen turning down pork that she was offered while out at dinner. The Church tortures her, also referred to as being put to “The Question”, and she eventually admits her guilty. She is put in prison and told that she will be given a trail. The Church puts people to “The Question” in order to determine guilt or innocence. They proclaim that a person put to “The Question” will not lie, because the fear of God, and the strength God will give them, would keep a person from lying. I thought that this was similar to the irrational thinking used during the witch hunts in America, and comparable to other events in history that revolved around demonizing certain people. In order to get his daughter out of jail, Tomas enlists the help of Goya. He has Goya set up a meeting with Brother Lorenzo to discuss his daughter’s release. Before the meeting Brother Lorenzo visits Ines in prison where he takes advantage of her. When the meeting finally takes place, a discussion takes place on the validity of putting someone to “The Question”. Brother Lorenzo’s stance is that a person would not lie if they were tortured regardless how ridiculous the accusation was. To prove a point, Tomas and his sons put Brother Lorenzo through the same torture methods used on his daughter. The result was a signed admission by Brother Lorenzo that he was a monkey, which proved anyone would say anything to end being tortured. Tomas strikes a bargain with Lorenzo and gave him a large donation to the church. He told Brother Lorenzo that he would destroy the document once his daughter was released. Although the church accepted Tomas’s donation, they would not release his daughter and Brother Lorenzo fled the country once his admission was released. The Church turned on him because they believed he did not have enough faith in God, not to sign the forced admission. I thought an interesting element in the movie was the relationship of the King and Queen to Spain. The King was from France and the Queen was from Italy. That reminded me that royalty in the region had less to do with origin of birth and more to do with family appointments and the rulers of the day. Parts of the movie were during the time when Napoleon invaded Spain. The power struggles between countries in the region were evident, as well as the power struggle among religious beliefs. The balance of power changed when Napoleon invaded Spain. Orders were immediately given to release the prisoners captured during the Inquisition, however when the French were chased out of Spain, the Church regained its power. Overall I think Goya’s Ghosts gave good insight on the events of the time period in Spain. I think that many contrasts can be made to the religious persecution of some groups that have taken place in America and many other countries.

Works Cited

“Goya’s Ghosts”. IMDB. Web. 28 Nov. 2011. <>

"Spanish Inquisition." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 28

Nov. 2011. Web. 1 Dec. 2011.

"Francisco Goya." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 30

Nov. 2011. Web. 1 Dec. 2011.

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