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PLACIDO (1961, ŠPA) – 7.5/10

Along with Juan Antonio Bardem (uncle of the famous actor Javier Bardem), Luis Garcia Berlanga is considered the most responsible for the resurgence of Spanish cinema after the Spanish civil war. As his father participated in the war on the side of the Republicans, Berlanga joined the so-called To the Blue Division made up of Spanish volunteers who fought for the Nazis on the Eastern Front. He did this in order to save his father, who fought on the side of the Republicans in the Civil War, from the death penalty, and after the war, he started making movies. Many of his films are now considered Spanish classics, and in them he often ironized and satirized various social and social situations in Franco’s Spain, but he did it extremely skillfully and subtly to avoid censors and getting into trouble.

One of the most famous examples of Berlanga’s work is “Placido”, a tragicomic satire that was even nominated for an Oscar in the category of best foreign film. Berlanga came up with the idea for the film based on real events and a campaign launched during the early days of Franco’s regime, which took place under the slogan “have a poor person at your table”. In that campaign, citizens were encouraged to share Christmas dinner with those who cannot afford a hot meal, and this false and forced, imposed attempt at solidarity and altruism of the regime that killed many people, proved to be the perfect opportunity for Berlanga to satirize the Spanish society of that time.

Although “Placido” seems archaic from today’s perspective, it brilliantly shows the petty-bourgeois spirit of the Spanish society at that time, especially the bourgeoisie, who in this way tried to soothe their conscience and convince themselves that they were doing something good. And the situation here is brought to the point of complete absurdity, because in a provincial town a group of idle wives of rich and well-to-do people has been organizing such an event for Christmas for years. However, this year the stakes have been raised further, as the arrival of a famous acting troupe has been arranged from Madrid, and a huge parade is planned around the city, as well as a society auction with celebrities who will turn out to be not quite as famous as they had hoped.

Among those engaged in the organization is the poor driver Placido, who has a bill for the vehicle that means his life the same evening. He hoped that he could have earned enough to cover the war on that Christmas Eve, but a series of unforeseen incidents, accidents, unexpected circumstances and the like will lead to the fact that it will become questionable whether Placido will make it to the bank on time. And in an interesting way, “Placido” satirizes the rich bourgeoisie who try to soothe their conscience with such events, but at the same time it is obvious what contempt they feel for these same unfortunate, poor and hungry people.

Somewhat in the footsteps of Francis Weber’s later black comedy “Dinner with an Idiot”, in which the arrogant rich compete to see who can bring a bigger idiot to dinner, so the rich here also compete to find a bigger poor man and show him off as if he were his property. Although “Placido” seems somewhat archaic from today’s perspective, we see that people have not changed much and we see that even today many people like to brag about how they are great benefactors, humanitarians or how great they are in general. Ubiquitous social networks are a great medium for such self-promotion and showing everyone how great, wonderful, beautiful, altruistic and ready to help someone is. However, just as it is more important for the rich people in Berlanga’s film to show how humanitarian and caring they are and to leave such an impression than in reality they care about how these people really live, the situation is almost identical with today’s people from Facebook. And their only goal is to present themselves as much better, more satisfied, smarter, more caring than they really are. Hypocrisy and hypocrisy are two words that could perhaps best describe today’s society of those self-infatuated people who only care about making a superficial impression.