The triptych of Lucia

Lucia synopsis from Letterboxd: “In his award-winning film Lucía, Humberto Solás interpreted the theme of Cuba’s hundred years’ struggle in an entirely novel way to create an epic in three separate episodes, each centred around a woman called Lucía and each unfolding in a different period of Cuban history, corresponding to the three stages of colonialism (1895), neocolonialism (1930) and socialist revolution (1968). The three episodes also present us with ‘Lucías’ of different social classes. Solás described his film in this way: ‘The woman’s role always lays bare the contradictions of a period and makes them explicit: Lucía is not a film about women, it’s a film about society.’”

  By director Humberto Solás, the film Lucia (1968) is about Cuban society. The film depicts the stories of three eponymous characters who live through different time periods in Cuba, each woman’s story takes place during a pivotal moment in Cuba’s history, covering the moments before and during great shifts, and each of the three women holds a different sociopolitical standing. Each woman’s story is told in its own separate episode, each defined by its own distinct style from the other two. 

Lucia is a Third Cinema film created by the people of Cuba for the people of Cuba. In his piece For an Imperfect Cinema, Julio García Espinosa wrote that “we maintain that imperfect cinema must above all show the process which generates the problems. It is thus the opposite of a cinema…which ‘beautifully illustrates’ ideas or concepts which we already possess” (Espinosa). These films do not aim to show a life more perfect than reality. This genre is similar to Italian Neorealism because it focuses on those dispositioned by the elite class. Third Cinema also takes inspiration from Italian Neorealism by utilizing the aesthetic of amateurism, a way this is shown is by featuring the use of real people as actors. Third Cinema also uses film aesthetics affiliated with Italian Neorealism, including the use of natural lighting. 

Like every film of the Third Cinema genre, Lucia was not created with the intention of being massively commercialized and was also not created to be watched voyeuristically. When watching this film you are moved to engage yourself with its topics; this film is meant to be watched actively. Third Cinema films like this one serve as a tool to inspire its viewers to take action.

Lucia was the first film I had seen directed by Humberto Solás. This film shares the same editor, Nelson Rodríguez, and composer, Leo Brouwer, as the film Memorias del subdesarrollo (Tomàs Gutiérrez Alea, 1968) which came out in the same year in Cuba. I see their style and influence throughout Lucia. The film Lucia utilized a timed repetitive rhythm which makes viewers feel the need to take an action after having watched it, this aspect is established by the film’s editing and music score. Repetition is a rhythmic device utilized in many Third Cinema films, another being The Hour of the Furnaces (1968), directed by Fernando E. Solanas and Octavio Getino, which also came out the same year but in Argentina. 

The first segment:

The first women’s story of the film Lucia takes place in the 1890s and this story is set in Cuba as it was leading up to its independence from Spain. This segment follows the story of a woman born into aristocracy. She accidentally commits bigamy and betrays to her husband her rebel brother’s location leading to his death, she later stabs her betrayer to death. The style of this first episode is very experimental showcasing a frenzy of images, using film stock that is a lot harsher looking than the next two episodes, and an abrasive resurrecting score by Leo Brouwer. This first segment of Lucia is the one out of the three most contrasting to the aesthetics of Hollywood produced films. 

The first segment of Lucia reminded me of other experimental films I have seen, including Daisies (1966) directed by Věra Chytilová. Daisies uses poetic rhythmic editing to tell its story I found to be a similar style to that of Lucia, both films show the character going back to the same places doing similar acts till there is a disruptive explosion in the story. Visually, this episode uses very harshly textured aesthetics aided by its use of harsh lighting. The editing in this segment is rhythmic and reminds me of the style of the Third Cinema experimental film Soleil O (1970) directed by Med Hondo. I find these films to be similar because they share editing and music techniques that can be very jarring, the grain of the film stock also seems similar to me in both films. 

The second segment:

The way the tragic ending of the first segment is shown is completely adverse to the style introduced in the second episode. Out of the three segments of the film, this one is the most that emulates a Hollywood film. The second episode of Lucia follows the story of a middle class woman living through the revolution of the 1930s. Lucia elopes with a revolutionary, gets pregnant, and the father is later killed. This segment is very polished and uses soft lighting you would see in a Hollywood film. This episode is a melodrama, my experience of watching this segment was the most voyeuristic of the three.

The third segment:

The third and final episode takes place in the time contemporary to its release, and is introduced by a title card reading “Lucia, 196 ,” I find this title card to be very engaging. For me, this title card abrupts the more passive voyeuristic experience I had watching the second segment. This third segment of the film reminded me the most of other Cuban films of the time which take influence from Italian Neorealism. This segment of the film showcases the story of a rural class peasant who runs away from her abusive husband. The folk music in this segment narrates the events of the story. 

Through its three separate and traversing episodes of Lucia, the film shows different portrayals of Cuban society. This film cannot exist without the context of Cuban history, Lucia exists to comment on the different stages of Cuban history. The film explores class and gender politics across different eras of Cuban society, the history of revolution and violence, and the legacy of colonialism. This film serves as an anthology of each of the three Lucias shown through juxtaposing image and sound. 

Works Cited

Alea, Tomàs Gutiérrez. Memorias del subdesarrollo. 1968.

Espinosa, Julio García, For an Imperfect Cinema

Hondo, Med. Soleil O. 1970.

Lucia. Letterboxd.

Secchi, Andrea. Neorealist Film Aesthetics in Cuban Third Cinema. 9 June 2022.

Solás, Humberto. Lucia. 1968.

Solanas, Fernando E., Getino, Octavio. The Hour of the Furnances. (1968).

Hoberman, J. ‘Lucía,’ a Gem of Cuban Cinema, Is Restored. 26 September 2018.

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