The scenes of the cinema | Íñigo García Odiaga


“Papillon” by Franklin J. Schaffner

During these days the scenes of the Kursaal and of the Victoria Eugenia will receive the next edition of the international festival of cinema of San Sebastian. From another more remote point of view, it will be the own city native of San Sebastian the one that uses as scene to the own festival. The architecture and the urbanism of the city will form the human space in which the movies will be debated, the actors will be chased and the prizes will be discussed.

The urbanism of San Sebastian is one of the examples most valued for the schools of architecture of the whole world. The form in which the growths of the urban center could respect the historical hull, while they were promoting the relation of the city with his natural environment, the bay, the river and the distant mounts are still today a motive of continued study.

Kursaal de Rafael Moneo
Kursaal in San Sebastián by Rafael Moneo

The contemporary architecture of the city has respected ideal this one of urban implantation. The Kursaal de Rafael I Clown around there was reinterpreting the river mouth of the Urumea and his relation with the mounts Urgull and Ulía across the metaphor of two rocks beached in the beach of the Zurriola, what the prize supposed Mies Van der Rohe, the prize to a more important architectural work granted in Europe.

The recently inaugurated work of rehabilitation and extension of the museum San Telmo, realized by the architects Nieto and Sobejano, returns to affect in the relation of the architecture with the natural elements and articulates in his front of smelting aluminium the whole speech on this subject matter. The skin of the new extension is perforated raising a rereading of the natural orifices that the erosion of the sea believes in the blocks of sandstone of the mount Urgull and in those who grow small plants and grasses. An irrigation for drip integrated to the front allows the growth of plants that are served the orifices of the new wall of aluminium to see the exterior of the square Zuloaga.

If the city is the frame, the environment in the one that develops the life of his inhabitants, the cinema needs from the same scenes to be able to count by means of the stills printed in the celluloid histories of all kinds. There have been multiple the occasions in which spaces of our next environment have been used to form a part, as one more actor, of movies of all kinds.

rehabilitación y ampliación del museo San Telmo, realizada por los arquitectos Nieto y Sobejano
Rehabilitation and extension of the museum San Telmo, realized by the architects Nieto and Sobejano

A good example is “Papillon” of the director Franklin J. Schaffner, released in 1973, was located the beginning of the history in Hondarribia’s old town. Steven McQueen y Dustin Hoffman they parade close to a prisoners’ company guarded the French army of way to the prisons of the French Guiana embarking in Hondarribia and before the attentive look of hundreds of citizens who occupy his crowded Avenue. The urban space of leisure that forms the Avenue, occupied by children who play and elderly fishermen who rest in the shade of the banana growers in the center of Hondarribia’s hull it contrasts with the hardness of the traffic of the convicts towards his prison that for many will be his end. Somehow the cinema looks not only for the image of the city, but his essence and the feelings that these spaces generate to introduce them in the movie.

As Donostia will put across the public his eyes on what it happens in the festival, the cinema also has seen the city from his own and particular optics. When in 1968 the producers of the “Battle of Britain“, they decided to roll a scene with a bombardment on the city of Berlin, thought that the famous avenue Unter is given by them Adjoin it had to be the ideal location for these captures. His pretensions hit with the communist authorities that were controlling the zone this one of the city, for what after a great search of scenes they selected the Avenue of the Freedom native of San Sebastian to roll these scenes. The bourgeois and elegant air of the widening of the city was reproducing to the perfection the urban life of the German capital, with the inconvenient only one of which the actors who in the movie were protected from the bombs entering the Berlin meter, they had to enter stooping little by little in a few false tube station entrances of papyrolit placed in the sidewalks of the avenue.

Beyond the image of appearance of both cities, it are his scale, his environment and his elegance manierista what decided the scene, filling of esvásticas and uniforms of the IIIrd Reich the sidewalks of the Avenue.

Avenida de la Libertad, San Sebastián en la películo Batalla de Inglaterra
Avenue of the Freedom, San Sebastian in the movie “Battle of Britain”

But maybe if there is a movie that could summarize this contradictory symmetry between sheltering the festival and going out on his screens, this could be “27 hours“, the Montxo Armendariz’s second full-lenght film, rolled entirely in the city native of San Sebastian. The movie showed itself in the Zinemaldi of 1986, showing 27 hours of life of a few prominent figures that there occupy the port, the bridge of the Kursaal or the old part native of San Sebastian in his daily life. The island appears as a point of break. If in the daily life of the citizens it is a visual permanent modal from great part of the city, his withdrawal and the inability to be reached awards always a mysterious air. It is this quality of the one that Armendariz takes advantage to finish off his movie and to establish the metaphor of which once in view of the step of coming to the island, already it will not have gone back.

Scene of “27 hours”, the Montxo Armendariz’s second full-lenght film

The utilization of the city, of his spaces in the cinema is something natural and no doubt wealth-producingly on having demonstrated that these spaces possess new meanings that enclosed in occasions happen unnoticed for his inhabitants. During this Zinemaldi this relation between city, architecture and cinema will be seen in hundreds of movies and since almost always the reality will overcome to the fiction.

Íñigo García Odiaga. architect
San Sebastián. September 2011

Published in ZAZPIKA 21.09.2011

Íñigo García Odiaga

Arquitecto. Editor de NOMU. 1/5 del estudio de arquitectura VAUMM. Vivo en Donosti.

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