Augusto Genina, L’assedio dell’Alcázar (1940)
Genina’s L’assedio dell'Alcazar is a pro-Fascist propaganda movie shot in the guise of popular entertainment. Set during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the plot is about the 70-day defence of a stone fortification, the Alcázar of Toledo, which was taken by General Francisco Franco’s Nationalist troops during the first phases of the Civil War. The Republican army, which represented the left-wing parties, besieged the Alcázar for months against a determined Nationalist resistance; eventually, the Republicans were defeated because of the arrival of Franco’s African Army, led by General Varela, who freed the entrenched inhabitants.
The Sacralisation of the New Man’s Total Politics through the Arts
Shaping the New Man’s Reality by Fashioning National Myths
Monumentalism: Visualising Subjectivity and Objectivity
The filmic representation of the 70-day siege of the Alcázar has a two-fold narrative path: first, the clear contrast between the positive portrayal of fascist-oriented characters against the negative image of socialist ones epitomises the transnationalisation of the fascist revolutionary myths which are translated in the Spanish context. Fascism is depicted as a historical force which goes beyond nationally-based political categories and exists as a supra-national revolutionary momentum, able to generate anthropological, social, cultural, and political transformation on an unprecedented scale. The dramatic scene in which Captain Vela replaces the red Republican flag with the Nationalist one stands as the triumph of the fascist good over the distorted and evil socialist revolution; moreover, it gives a new meaning to the international dimension of Italian Fascism as the inspiring force of a new political modernity.
The second narrative strand is concerned with the various struggles faced by people entrenched in the Alcázar, who represent the living evidence of the fulfilment of the fascist anthropological and transnational revolution. The scenes in which the army official Moscardo is willing to sacrifice his son imprisoned by the Republicans, the race against time as the residents await the arrival of Franco’s troops, the tracking shot with a close-up on crying babies and women exhausted by the siege, and the love affair between Vela and a caring nurse all seek to convey a deep emotional meaning and inspire empathy among the audience.
L’assedio dell’Alcázar celebrates the triumph of a male-controlled, hierarchical, and militaristic concept of national greatness: a revolutionary impetus which changed the minds and the bodies of citizens, who can identify themselves as organic parts of the fascist State. In so doing, the film champions an interpretative framework in which the Spanish Civil War represents the fascist crusade against the evil socialist infidels as a moral one. As the Italian Fascist State resolves internal social conflict, energies and violence can be directed beyond national borders to pursue the imperial dream (Ethiopian War), to destroy the socialist threat (Spanish Civil War), and to foster the fascistization of the world (the Axis with Hitler).
Falasca Zamponi, Simonetta. 1997. Fascist Spectacle. The Aesthetics of Power in Fascist Italy. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Griffin, Roger. 2007. Modernism and Fascism. The Sense of a Beginning under Mussolini and Hitler. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
Higginbotham, Virginia. 1998. Spanish Film Under Franco. Austin: University of Texas Press.