Nº6 2020 (3)

Haptic Visuality in the Fourth Generation of Spanish Women Filmmakers: The Tactile and Aural Reflection About Language

Nuria Cancela* & Miriam Sánchez Manzano (Universitat Pompeu Fabra)

The haptic is a constant in the stylistic exploration of the fourth generation of Spanish fiction women filmmakers, as Zecchi (2014a) theorizes. This style consists in the perception of other senses through the use of image and sound. This cinematic tactile sensory experience —following Marks (2000, 2002) and Barker (2008)— appears in these director’s films in three different ways. First, through a material presence, with shots that reinforce texture with blur, small depth of field and tight shots; second, touching the environment, through haptic shots of hands and bodies that palpate diverse elements. Third, caressing the body, haptic gestures that allow us to feel the touch of the skin in a synesthetic way. Touch is thus evidenced as a visual motif that turns shadows palpable, as Losilla (2016) theorizes. All this is complemented with an aural experience that privileges ambient and internal sounds, instead of the word.


This way of narrating is opposed to two more conventional cinematic languages: the optic visuality —related to voyeurism and scopophilia, as Mulvey (1988) suggests— and verbal language —attributed to the man too, who traditionally had the verb, as Silverman (1988) indicates. This reflection about ocularcentrism and verbal language also appears in the dialogue and characters, as expressed through the superimposed images of our video essay. Blind characters, deaf characters and characters with speech difficulties use their hands and/or touch as a new form of communication. This reflects on the visual —and sexual— pleasure, on the representation of violence and on the violence of representation, widely studied by Zecchi (2014a). Through this reflection on language, as Marks (2000, 2002) indicates, the haptic, as a discourse different from the dominant, can be understood as a feminist strategy. Furthermore, authors such as Irigaray (1985) understand the tactile as “feminine” because it remits to the historically invisibilized clitoral pleasure.


The fourth generation of Spanish women filmmakers known as the heirs, recurrently reflect on this issue. From the 1990s, this generation, theorized by Zecchi (2014a), includes “the first that work bearing in mind explicitly or implicitly, consciously or unconsciously their predecessors” (Zecchi, 2014a: 11). From Coixet to Moray, including Bollaín, Colell, Mañá and Ortiz, among others, these filmmakers belong to a generation that reflects on the haptic, reflection that, in some cases, is an unmistakable authorial characteristic. They do this from a feminist perspective and not only from a “feminine” one. Finally, this particularity, along with another set of characteristics brings to the fore a key idea pointed out by Zecchi (2014a), paraphrasing Butler (2010): this generation, with its awareness of gender, precisely questions gender. 


Even though this audiovisual essay studies a field brilliantly theorized by such authors as Zecchi (2014a, 2014b) and Guillamón Carrasco (2020), the audiovisual format allows us to perform an analysis with images and from images. It offers a wide visual —and aural— repertoire that aims to show both the recurrence of the haptic as an authorial mark, as well as the aesthetic and reflective relations these films generate from a feminist perspective. Through a variety of images, this audiovisual piece intends to be haptic itself, visually and audibly proving the tactile and aural characteristics of these films, often difficult to be explained by writing. 



  • Barker, J. M. (2009) The Tactile Eye. Touch and the Cinematic Experience. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  • Butler, J. (2010) El Género en disputa: el feminismo y la subversión de la identidad. Barcelona: Ediciones Paidós.
  • Colaizzi, G. (2017) “Mar Coll: horizontes de crisis” In F. A. Zurián (Ed). Miradas de mujer. Cineastas españolas para el siglo XXI (PP. 93-105). Madrid: Editorial Fundamentos, 109-121.
  • Guillamón Carrasco, S. (2020) “Haptic Visuality and Film Narration. Mapping New Women’s Cinema in Spain”. Communication & Society, 33 (3), 137-157. 
  • Irigaray, L. (1985) This Sex Which Is Not One. New York: Cornell University.
  • Losilla, C. (2016) “El tacto” In J. Balló y A. Bergala (Eds). Motivos visuales del cine  Barcelona: Galaxia Gutenberg, 293-298.
  • Marks, L.U. (2000) The Skin of the Film. Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses. Durham and London: Duke University Press.
  • Marks, L.U. (2002) Touch. Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Martín-Márquez, S. (2013) “El placer. Isabel Coixet y la teoría fílmica: de la mirada a lo ‘háptico’”. In B. Zecchi (Coord). Gynocine: teoría de género, filmología y praxis cinematográfica. Zaragoza: Prensas Universitarias de Zaragoza, 43-58.
  • Mulvey, L. (1988) ·Placer visual y cine narrativo·. Documentos de trabajo (1). Valencia: Centro de Semiótica y Teoría del Espectáculo, 1-22.
  • Parés Pulido, M. (2017) ·Judith Colell: la pluralidad de los retratos del alma y el cine de autor(a)·. In F. A. Zurián (Ed). Miradas de mujer. Cineastas españolas para el siglo XXI Madrid: Editorial Fundamentos, 93-105. 
  • Paszkiewicz, K. (2015) “La vida secreta de los sentidos: la memoria individual y colectiva en la obra de Isabel Coixet”. In A. Calderón, K. Kumor y K. Moszczyńska-Dürst (Eds). ¿La voz dormida? Memoria y género en las literaturas hispánicas. Warsow: Instituto de Estudios Ibéricos e Iberoamericanos de la Universidad de Varsovia, 407-426.
  • Silverman, K. (1988) The Acoustic Mirror. The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema. Theories of Representation and Difference. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.
  • Zecchi, B. (2014a). Desenfocadas: cineastas españolas y discursos de género. Barcelona: Icaria.
  • Zecchi, B. (2014b). La pantalla sexuada. Madrid: Cátedra.
  • Zecchi, B. (2017). Laura Mañá: irreverencia y desafío feminista desde el realismo mágico al realismo histórico. In F. A. Zurián (Ed). Miradas de mujer. Cineastas españolas para el siglo XXI. Madrid: Editorial Fundamentos, 93-105.


  • Bollaín, I. (2003) Te doy mis ojos. España: Producciones La Iguana S.L. and Alta Producción.
  • Coixet, I. (2005) La vida secreta de las palabras (The Secret Life of the Words). España: El Deseo and Mediapro.
  • Coixet, I. (2013) Ayer no termina nunca. España: A Contracorriente Films and Miss Wasabi.
  • Coixet, I. (2014) Aprendiendo a conducir (Learning to Drive). Estados Unidos: Board Green Pictures.
  • Coixet, I. (2015) Nadie quiere la noche. España, Francia y Bulgaria: Neo Art Producciones, Mediapro, Ariane & Garoe, Noodles Production and One More Movie.
  • Colell, J. (2010)  Elisa K. España: Oberón Cinematográfica.
  • Colell, M. (2018) Con el viento. España, Francia y Argentina: Polar Star Films, Paraïso Productions, Habitación 1520 Producciones and Hellish Producciones.
  • Coll, M. (2004) La última polaroid. España: Escándalo Films.
  • Coll, M. (2013) Todos queremos lo mejor para ella (Tots volem el millor per a ella). España: Escándalo Films.
  • Díaz, M. (2018) Mi querida cofradía. España: ESCAC Films.
  • Funes, B. (2019) La hija de un ladrón. España: B-Team Pictures and Oberón Cinematográfica.
  • Jaurrieta, A. (2018) Ana de día. España: Andrea Jaurrieta P.C. and No Hay Banda.
  • Mañá, L. (2010) La vida empieza hoy. España: Ovide, Televisión de Galicia (TVG) and Televisión Española (TVE). 
  • Moray, I. (2019) Suc de síndria. España: Distinto Films.
  • Ortiz. P. (2005) Fotos de familia. España: Amapola Films.
  • Ortiz, P. (2008) El hueco de Tristán Boj. España: Amapola Films. 
  • Ortiz, P. (2011) De tu ventana a la mía. España: Amapola Films.
  • Ortiz P. (2015) La novia. España y Alemania: Get In The Picture Productions and Cine Chromatix.
  • Payás, D. (2008) Mejor que nunca. España: JLA Productions, Magic Lantern, Production Group, Tutor Cine and Zahorimedia.
  • Pelegrí, T.; Colell, J.; Ripoll, M.; Olivé-Bellés, N. y Gardela, I. (1997) El dominio de los sentidos (El domini dels sentits). España: José Gimeno Mayol.
  • Sebastián, S. (2015) De chica en chica. España: Pocapena Producciones and Versus Entertainment.
  • Simón, C. (2017) Verano 1993 (Estiu 1993). España: Inicia Films and Avalon P.C.

*This article is soponsored by Nuria Cancela’s Formación del Profesorado Universitario del Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades (FPU19/02441) grant.

How to cite this article: Cancela, N. and Sánchez Manzano, M. (2020) Haptic Visuality in the Fourth Generation of Spanish Women Filmmakers: The Tactile and Aural Reflection About Language/La visualidad háptica en las directoras españolas de la cuarta generación: la reflexión táctil y aural sobre el lenguaje. Tecmerin. Revista de Ensayos Audiovisuales, 6(3). ISSN: 2659-4269

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