The Spanish Civil War still retains a grip on the popular imagination, despite its political complexities, because of the artists associated with it. Orwell, Hemingway, Auden, Picasso and, a rather different figure, Lorca.
Federico Garcia Lorca’s plays are romantic and sensual, with female characters who are attempting to break out from restrictions imposed by family and tradition. Yerma yearns for a child and kills the husband who refuses to co-operate with her desire. In The House of Bernarda Alba the youngest daughter Adela seeks her own destiny rather than that imposed by parental instruction and social custom. In Blood Wedding the Bride is drawn to her previous lover Leonardo, whose family has caused violence in the community before. In Lorca’s plays the Catholic Church and the Spanish countryside are often equally powerful forces.
At first glance, the work of contemporary Spanish film-maker Pedro Almodóvar seems dissimilar : much gaudier and broader. But I feel his Volver is reminiscent of Lorca : the women tending the cemeteries in the wind-swept village is a little like the scene in Yerma where Dolores and Yerma are praying in a cemetery to speed the latter’s pregnancy. It is often said that homosexual male artists show a particular sensitivity in observing and analysing the female experience : perhaps this holds true with Lorca and Almodovar.
For full effect, productions of Lorca probably need to be kept in their historical and geographical contexts, and with a certain sense of religious ritual, such as the several Spanish productions on You Tube of The House of Bernarda Alba.
There is a great collection of Lorca plays and poetry here, and some photographs of the Andalusia where Lorca lived here :