Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

Letters from The City: Writing Boundaries in Nueve cartas a Berta (1965)

Bulletin of Hispanic Studies (2013), 90, (8), 945–964.

Abstract

Spanish director Basilio Martín Patino's 1965 film, Nueve Cartas a Berta, narrates the story of Lorenzo, a young man who, after returning home from England, feels alienated in his native Salamanca. To cope with this estrangement, he writes letters to his exiled girlfriend, Berta. These letters become both an exercise in imagining new places, perspectives, and experiences, and a practice of defining boundaries that transcend yet are paradoxically confined to national borders. Through close literary and cinematographic readings, this article explores the function of writing in creating and delimiting imaginary places, both within Francoist Spain and abroad. First examining the narrative, then specific filmic techniques - freeze frames, voice-overs, slow motion - as a way to capture and emulate visually the act of writing, this article considers not only the crucial role that imaginary places play in Patino's film but also what other possible spaces writing opens up for the spectator.

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Arendt, Hannah, 1973 [1951]. The Origins of Totalitarianism (London and New York: Harcourt Inc.). The Origins of Totalitarianism Google Scholar

Arendt, Hannah, 2006 [1963]. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (London and New York: Penguin Books). Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil Google Scholar

Arozena, Carmen, P. J. L. de Castro, Perucha J. Pérez and Santos Zunzunegui (eds), 2005. La Nueva Memoria. Historia(s) Del Cine Español (1939-2000) (A Coruña: Vía Lactea). La Nueva Memoria. Historia(s) Del Cine Español (1939-2000) Google Scholar

Bazin, André, 1980. ‘The Ontology of the Photographic Image’, in Classic Essays on Photography, ed. Alan Trachtenberg (New Haven, CT: Leete's Island Books), pp. 237-44. Classic Essays on Photography 237 44 Google Scholar

Berkowitz, Roger, 2009. ‘Solitude and the Activity of Thinking’, in Thinking in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt on Ethics and Politics, ed. Roger Berkowitz, Jeffrey Katz and Thomas Keenan (New York: Fordham University Press), pp. 237-45. Thinking in Dark Times: Hannah Arendt on Ethics and Politics 237 45 Google Scholar

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Carr, Raymond. 2001. Spain: A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press). Spain: A History Google Scholar

Cosgrove, Denis, 2006. ‘Modernity, Community, and the Landscape Idea’, in Journal of Material Culture, 11.1-2: 49-66. ‘Modernity, Community, and the Landscape Idea’, in Journal of Material Culture 11 49 66 Google Scholar

Crumbaugh, Justin, 2009. Destination Dictatorship: The Spectacle of Spain's Tourist Boom and the Reinvention of Difference (Albany, NY: SUNY Press). Destination Dictatorship: The Spectacle of Spain's Tourist Boom and the Reinvention of Difference Google Scholar

De Certeau, Michel, 1984. The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley: University of California Press). The Practice of Everyday Life Google Scholar

Faulkner, Sally, 2006. A Cinema of Contradiction: Spanish Film in the 1960s (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press). A Cinema of Contradiction: Spanish Film in the 1960s Google Scholar

Foucault, Michel, 1999 [1967]. ‘Of Other Spaces’, trans. Jay Miskiewiec, in The Visual Culture Reader, ed. Nicholas Mirzoeff (London: Routledge), pp. 229-36. The Visual Culture Reader 229 36 Google Scholar

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Hooper, John. 2007. The New Spaniards (New York: Penguin). The New Spaniards Google Scholar

Kinder, Marsha, 1993. Blood Cinema: The Reconstruction of National Identity in Spain (Berkeley: University of California Press). Blood Cinema: The Reconstruction of National Identity in Spain Google Scholar

Kovács, András Baliant, 2007. Screening Modernism: European Art Cinema, 1950-1980 (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press). Screening Modernism: European Art Cinema, 1950-1980 Google Scholar

Labanyi, Jo, and Helen Graham. 1995. Spanish Cultural Studies: An Introduction : The Struggle for Modernity (Oxford: Oxford University Press). Spanish Cultural Studies: An Introduction : The Struggle for Modernity Google Scholar

Machado, Antonio, and Alan S. Trueblood, 1982. Selected Poems (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press). Selected Poems Google Scholar

Martín Patino, Basilio, 1968. Nueve cartas a Berta (Madrid: Editorial Ciencia Nueva). Nueve cartas a Berta Google Scholar

Mirzoeff, Nicholas (ed.), 1999. The Visual Culture Reader (London: Routledge). The Visual Culture Reader Google Scholar

Nowell-Smith, Geoffry, 2008. Making Waves: New Cinemas of the 1960s (New York: Continuum). Making Waves: New Cinemas of the 1960s Google Scholar

Riambau, Esteve, 2008. ‘Nueve cartas a Berta: de la modernidad y otras soledades’, en En esto consistían los paraísos: aproximaciones a Basilio Martín Patino, ed. Jiménez P. García and C. Martín (Granada: Diputación de Granada), pp. 20-33. En esto consistían los paraísos: aproximaciones a Basilio Martín Patino 20 33 Google Scholar

de Riquer I Permanyer, Borja. 1995. "Social and Economic Change in a Climate of Political Immobilism" in Spanish Cultural Studies: An Introduction : The Struggle for Modernity, ed. Helen Graham and Jo Labanyi (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 259-70. Spanish Cultural Studies: An Introduction : The Struggle for Modernity 259 70 Google Scholar

Silverman, Kaja, 1988. The Acoustic Mirror: The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema (Bloomington: Indiana University Press). The Acoustic Mirror: The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema Google Scholar

Zunzunegui, Santos, 2005. ‘Llegar a más: El cine español entre 1962 y 1971’, in La Nueva Memoria. Historia(s) Del Cine Español (1939-2000), ed. Carmen Arozena, P. J. L. de Castro, Perucha J. Pérez and Santos Zunzunegui (A Coruña: Vía Lactea), pp. 130-77. La Nueva Memoria. Historia(s) Del Cine Español (1939-2000) 130 77 Google Scholar

Filmography Google Scholar

Andrei Rublev. 1966, dir. Andrei Tarkovsky (Columbia Pictures). Google Scholar

Blow-up. 1966, dir. Michelangelo Antonioni (MGM). Google Scholar

Canciones para después de una Guerra. 1971, dir. Basilio Martín Patino (José Esteban Alenda Distribución). Google Scholar

Caudillo. 1973, dir. Basilio Martín Patino (Suevia Films, Madrid). Google Scholar

La caza. 1965, dir. Carlos Saura (Boccaccio Distribución). Google Scholar

El extraño viaje. 1964, dir. Fernando Fernán Gomez (Ízaro Films). Google Scholar

Madrid. 1987, dir. Basilio Martín Patino (Suevia Films, Madrid). Google Scholar

Nueve cartas a Berta/Nine Letters to Berta. 1965, dir. Basilio Martín Patino (Suevia Films, Madrid). Google Scholar

Peppermint Frappé. 1967, dir. Carlos Saura (Boccaccio Distribución). Google Scholar

Persona. 1966, dir. Ingmar Bergman (United Artists/MGM). Google Scholar

La prima Angélica. 1973, dir. Carlos Saura (Cinema Intern. Corp.). Google Scholar

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Author details

Keller, Patricia