A selection of screen captures taken from the Spanish documentary film El desencanto (English translation: “The Disenchantment” (1976)), directed by Jaime Chávarri. This post is a follow-up to my earlier post on the late poet, Leopoldo María Panero (see here).
El desencanto is a somewhat bizarre affair. It is the story of the Panero family told by the family members themselves. At the time of shooting, the father, Leopoldo Panero, a prominent poet during the Franco regime, had died twelve years earlier in 1962. We are left, therefore, with the widow and matriarch, Felicidad Blanc, and the three sons, Juan Luis, Leopoldo María, and José Moisés (Michi).
The director, Jaime Chávarri, has openly confessed elsewhere that his original intention was to make a documentary inside one of Spain’s mental institutions, although he was denied permission by the authorities, understandably so given the Franco dictatorship. Chávarri maintains that the authorities would not even sanction a film consisting purely of video footage without any directorial commentary whatsoever; apparently the objection being that the images alone “would speak for themselves”. I think the prohibition is most telling here, for if conditions inside such institutions were unobjectionable, then why object to the making of a documentary within their walls? The omission supplies much fuel for the imagination. Instead, at the insistence of producer and author, Elías Querejeta, together with an enthusiastic Michi Panero, Chávarri settled upon the Panero family.
Parallels have been drawn between the situation of the Panero family at the time of the making of the documentary and the wider sociopolitical scenario unfolding in Spain. Indeed, it is easy to read the personal tribulations of an illustrious family fallen on hard times after the death of the paterfamilias as some kind of resonant symbolism of the decadence of the Francoist family in general, and, by extension, of the degeneration of the Franco dictatorship itself. It is worth noting that not only are the remaining members of the Panero family in a less than buoyant financial position, they are also, as is reiterated in the film, the last of their kind, a realisation which conjures a somewhat fatalistic or nihilistic atmosphere, resembling something out of Edgar Allan Poe. The comparison is encouraged by the fact that the family members are all somewhat unconventional or offbeat, to put it kindly.
A most intriguing window into an even more intriguing family, all of whom have now passed away with the recent death of Leopoldo María Panero. Well worth watching if you can find it.