The New Abduction of Europe is a beautiful film.
It is a depiction of Spain’s economic, societial and political struggle to introduce change. It tells the story of a society in upheaval – how the popular movement that grew out of anger from economic despair, developed into a widespread political force in ‘Podemos’. From an outsider’s vantage point, the film takes a serious stab at Spain’s political culture which evolved since democracy was introduced post Franco’s death.
When reforming Spain, its past grandeur must be the guiding star when defining its future.
Spain has been through an extremely painful economic recession. A modern time depression. Masses of people evicted from their homes as banks were forced to get rid of bad loans, vast cuts in public spending, and brutal labour market reforms severely reducing workers’ rights. As the professors state in the film: ‘People realise that things cannot continue in this way.’ In its efforts to visualise and explain the broad set of issues involved, the film takes the viewer to an unexpected place of departure: Madrid’s National Museum of Art (Museo del Prado) – one of the world’s most famous and prestigious art institutions. For a non-Spanish national, I immediately become impressed by the immense cultural heritage ingrained in Spanish history and society. The enormous buildings, with their endless archives filled with grand paintings of global magnitude. Spain is key to world heritage. No doubt. The producer tells us: When reforming Spain, its past grandeur must be the guiding star when defining its future.
We enter the auditorium of the new Queen Sofia building. And here my enthusiasm plummets. It is a beautiful museum by award-winning French architect Jean Nouvel, who probably did not consider a people in unrest and upheaval when designing this monumental building. Obviously, he thought of the space and volume it takes to store the Picassos and Dalís of this world. He melted French and Spanish grandeur, perfectly designed for showing off the superiority of Spanish cultural past equal to few, if not to none. However, as the camera moves into the immense auditorium, it occurs to me how alienating this scenario is to the audience and the political messages that are conveyed: Distant, cold and condescending. Had the panel members worn sun glasses they would not have looked out of place in the Franco period: Little people clad in black seated at a long table, with name plates too small for anyone to read. Luckily, any resemblance to the past stops here, as the words we hear are those of revolution and hope. It dawns on me that the film is about much more than political upheaval in the aftermath of the economic crisis. It seems to be about the origin and meaning of life, about our society’s economic and cultural models.
The existential conversation between the museum’s director Manuel Borja Villel and Italian philosopher and thinker Antonio Negri takes the viewer back to the basic meaning of life and society: How do we organise production while providing freedom? As a tribute to true European brotherhood, both men speak their own Latin language without a glimpse of misunderstanding. The combination of an unprecedented economic crisis, leading to widespread poverty and suffering, spurred a tremendous movement of the minds. Intellectuals, who still seem rather safe in their positions, start to get worried. They then engage in how difficult it is to build a fair, just and clean democratic society.
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