Journal of Romance Studies

Remaking Spain: trans/national mythologies and cultural fetishism in The Devil is a Woman (Sternberg, 1935) and Cet obscur objet du désir (Buñuel, 1977)

Journal of Romance Studies (2004), 4, (1), 13–27.

Abstract

Although in purely commercial terms, Spain has been marginal to much of the international traffic in film remakes, this essay seeks to bring into focus a complex history of artistic borrowings and less than equal exchange that has repeatedly cast Spanish culturescapes and character types as the exotic setting for European fantasies of psychic freedom and sexual excess. In analysing Sternberg’s and Buñuel’s film adaptations of Pierre Louÿs’s novel La Femme et le pantin, itself arguably a ‘remake’ of Mérimée’s Carmen, this study examines the evolving role of one of the most pervasive and recurring mythologies of Spanishness. It argues that while nineteenth-century incarnations of the Carmen myth served to reinforce relatively stable national identities based on the opposition between self and other, male and female, France and Spain, the later versions by Sternberg and Buñuel propose more uncertain forms of decentred subjectivity increasingly shadowed by the threats and dislocations of the twentieth-century nation state.

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Author details

Vernon, Kathleen M.