Nº5 2020 (2)

Leviathan

Adrià Guardiola Rius (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)

In 1954 a whale arrives in Madrid. The No-Do (No. 599-B)* bears witness to this [1]. That same year, Gregory Peck enjoys the Spanish capital before heading to the Canary Islands. He will be shooting Moby Dick under the direction of John Huston. The name of the whale in Madrid is also Moby Dick, but it is real and tangible. It has guts, liquids, organs. The great whale finally hunted. It is surrounded by a strong circus paraphernalia: “First time exhibited in its natural state”, reads the advertising poster. Groups of people take shelter under the tent that protects them from the scorching sun. It is summer, June 28, 1954, and it is hot. It is 25 degrees in Madrid. It is not raining on the wasteland, but if we gently bring our ear closer, we can hear the liquid inside.


The fearsome cetacean is shown under the pretext of a cultural and scientific exhibition. But the whale can only be seen. The crowd’s is undeniable: there is no danger of uprising, no danger of Apocalypse. The Prince reigns despotically under the sacred imperative of restoring the great Leviathan. The Apocalypse was over fifteen long years ago and now everything is written the right way. It is just the corpse of a whale, objectively exhibited for scientific purposes, so that the public can walk around its insides without fear, at last. Reality can be unraveled without fear; analysis is not dangerous. But the important thing is to enjoy the knowledge that a giant cetacean can offer, under the scientific protection of a Prince who reigns, forever, in the Great Circus. After the Apocalypse, after the End, there is always a great beginning.


The section of the NO-DO where the whale story is projected is “Picturesque and Strange”. An era is defined by its attributes, and the “Study for the Tourist Planning of the Costa del Sol” has a very clear purpose: a “general beautification” of the Spanish landscape. This is why there must be a “declaration of scenic interest of picturesque places of great natural beauty”. Things must be observed for their natural beauty as well as being instructive. The Spanish coast is picturesque, so it must be exhibited, it must be exploited. The whale in Madrid is also picturesque, which is why it is paraded. But inevitably it is still odd… After all, it is a dead body. Even at the center of the Circus, it continues to appear as the stranger, the intruder, the external body unassimilated inside: “the strangeness did not have to come from outside except for having emerged from within.” In spite of the friendly voice-over, the children are still afraid of it: there is no good reason to get into the Leviathan’s mouth.


The Prince liked to hunt whales [2] and he did it manly every year, but this whale is out of the water, it is dry and it ambles on the land, it travels on wheels, engine-powered, although it has water inside and it seeks to expand, which is why it decomposes and rots and mysteriously disappears [3]. But in Madrid the gaze of the picturesque prevails. Following the Hobbesian eschatological tradition, Franco’s regime lived through the conviction, based on the real destruction of the internal enemy, that Behemoth and Leviathan had been fighting to death during three years, until the day in which the “proclamation of peace” occurred, that is, until the arrival of the end of time. If—as Agamben suggests— Hobbes laid out an eschatological vision of Leviathan that would finally lead to the Kingdom of God —a fact that Schmitt read in the realization of Nazism, the eschatological analysis of Leviathan can also be applied —from the fascist aesthetic perspective— to the Franco’s regime, given Schmitt’s political theology influence of on Francoism as a new State-generating ideology.


After thorough search of the NO-DO digital archive, I have edited all the whale corpses scenes during the 40 years of the documentary programmed together with some audio fragments of the Hobbes’ Leviathan and some captures of the original frontispiece. The relationship between the Hobbesian political imagery, the figure of a whale’s corpse and the end of time takes shape through a fascist necropolitics based on some myths that, strangely enough, persist.

 

Notes

*NO-DO was a weekly newsreel of Franco’s regime, shown in Spanish cinemas before films, between 1942 and 1981. It was the official cinematic propaganda tool of the dictatorship.

[1] Retrieved from: http://www.rtve.es/filmoteca/no-do/not-599/1480955/

[2] As the Civil Governor of La Coruña, Max Borrell, epically explains: “Once you know him and have seen him chase sperm whales, you come to understand all the successes of his political career… he is admirable for the constancy and perseverance with which he follows the sperm whale… I am sure that even if that sperm whale took him to Russia, Franco would not stop chasing it to death”. Retrieved on 10-12-19. Source:
https://blogs.publico.es/strambotic/2017/10/franco-el-capitan-ahab-espanol/

[3] Journalist Alberto Insúa satirically pointed out in La Vanguardia on 16 July 1954 that: “Now, with a certain amount of marinade, whale meat ‘can be eaten’. And this could be a solution in view of the astronomical prices of beef, veal and pork… Someone once called whales ‘Neptune’s cows’. We must keep that in mind for when the ‘seven lean years’ come.”

References

  • Pack, Sasha D. (2006) Tourism and Dictatorship. Europe’s Peaceful Invasion of Franco’s Spain. Nueva York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  •  Nancy, J.L. (2006) El intruso. Buenos Aires: Amorrortu Ediciones.
  • Agamben, G. (2015) Stasis. La guerra civil como paradigma político. Homo sacer, II, 2. Buenos Aires: Adriana Hidalgo Editora.

How to cite this article: Guardiola Rius, A. (2020) Leviatán / Leviathan. Tecmerin. Revista de Ensayos Audiovisuales, 5(2). ISSN: ISSN: 2659-4269

Other videoessays in this issue: