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ArribaAbajoCreation and destruction of personality in Tristana: Galdós and Buñuel

Theodore A. Sackett

The sine qua non of all criticism of Galdós' Tristana is: «it is not one of his best novels, but...» It was written after the last of his extensive masterpieces, Ángel Guerra (1890), and its appearance coincided with his noisy dramatic debut in Realidad (1892), obscuring its existence for nearly all contemporary readers except the writer's friends, Leopoldo Alas «Clarín» and Emilia Pardo Bazán.82 The novel, written when Galdós was 49, remained virtually ignored by readers and critics alike until 1970, when the celebrated film adaptation by Luis Buñuel awoke the interest not only of millions of viewers around the world, but of more readers than had ever opened a novel by Pérez Galdós. Prior to 1970 there were but seven studies of Tristana of any significance;83 since the film, sixteen critics have devoted attention to it in journals,84 and twenty-five more in newspaper articles in Spain.85

The theme of women's liberation was perceived immediately by Pardo Bazán, and critics in the post-Buñuel years have expanded on that aspect of Galdós' novel.86 Others have begun to identify additional themes and techniques of literary interest. Julián Marías, for example, finds a pair of protagonists of extraordinary intimacy, tenderness, and invention, comparable only to the novelist's best efforts in works like El Amigo Manso.87 Casalduero has explored the relationship between Galdós and Ibsen,88 Leon Livingstone, Emilio Miró and others have described the Cervantine presence in Tristana, as well as the relationship between D. Lope and the Don Juan archetype,89 and Francisco Ayala has provided useful insights into the origin of D. Lope de Sosa in the «Cena jocosa» of Baltasar del Alcázar, a related literary archetype of a hellraising nobleman from Jaén.90 Recently, Ruth Schmidt has illuminated the significance of the Shakespearian elements in Galdós' novel.91

Despite these and other glimmerings of the existence of positive values in the novel, universal critical reaction to its intrinsic merit remains largely negative. As a novel of ideological significance, it is unquestionably a failure; Tristana never acquires the universal symbolic dimension of a Nora, as Casalduero has indicated.92 It is a short, almost plotless novel, without the soaring passages of Galdosian realism characteristic of his masterpieces.

Most of those who have compared the novel with Buñuel's film take the position that despite the latter's obvious inspiration in the characters and plot of the novel, the adaptation is almost entirely new, totally changed in tone and technique from its model. Livingstone, for example,   —72→   sees Buñuel's blend of the real and the surreal, and his abrasive humor, as diametrically opposed to the novelist's indulgent irony and criticism marked by deep compassion for human weakness.93 David I. Grossvogel, in a cogent reading of both versions, states that the filmmaker's «unsparing vision» prevents him from remaining «at Galdosian remove from character», presenting situations from a sadistic rather than a neorealistic point of view.94 Galdós' fellow Canarian, Andrés Amorós, has described in great detail the literal points of dependence of the adaptation with respect to its model, noting that of the 35 scenes in the film script, 28 or 80% are totally new.95

I believe, nevertheless, that there is a level of meaning and technique which has not been sufficiently explored, which reveals a far greater degree of similarity between the versions of Galdós and Buñuel than has been shown, and which tends to elevate our appreciation of the novel's intrinsic value. It is beyond the scope of this examination and of my expertise to explore fully the differences in artistic medium which separate these two works of art. But it is possible, from a literary, point of view, to describe and compare the manner in which Galdós creates his images through mere words, and Buñuel through words, sights, and sounds. Although the media differ, a similar process exists in both versions: the creation and destruction of personality.

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In Buñuel the process of depicting personality is achieved through photographic images, visual symbols, visual repetitions and juxtapositions, and through sounds; in Galdós' novel, these effects are created through written words shaped by humor and irony into symbolic structures. Whereas in Buñuel the structures are related to sexual obsessions and social realities, in the novel they are molded from the echoes of earlier literature. The novel's beginning is not rooted in 19th century reality, but in literature. The work begins: «Vivía no ha muchos años un hidalgo de buena estampa y nombre peregrino... no aposentado en casa solariega... sino en plebeyo cuarto de alquiler de los baratitos».96

This Cervantine echo from Don Quijote is quickly combined with two additional images: D. Lope as the archetypal «Escudero» from Lazarillo de Tormes, underscoring a discrepancy between appearances and reality, and as Joaquín Gimeno has pointed out, D. Lope as a duplicate of figures in well-known paintings, such as the «tercios viejos de Flandes».97 These three echoes are later combined with a fourth, the Don Juan archetype (p. 8). Here we find an innovation unmentioned by any of the numerous critics who have studied the universal Don Juan myth; this is perhaps the first of the aged Don Juanes in decadence, the first who in trying to hold onto the final conquest, ends by becoming the victim of that conquest.98

Buñuel's change of locale from the barrios of Madrid to the immortal   —73→   imperial city of Toledo is appropriate, as has been suggested, by virtue of his desire to find a milieu in the year 1969 similar to the atmosphere of the Cuatro Caminos of Galdós' days;99 but the change is also eminently correct because Toledo is the home of one of D. Lope's archetypal models, the «Escudero». Like him, D. Lope has no professional occupation and lives on a small income from minor landholdings (p. 9). Like D. Quijote, he is characterized by changing extremes of personality. He is usually generous, disinterested and anti-materialistic, but he is also intolerant of the most minor offense against his honor. He exercises what Galdós calls a sacerdotal role in the interpretation of points of honor. To indicate indirectly the anachronistic nature of D. Lope's social ideas, we are told that he regards State employees as mere rabble, «digna de remar en galeras» (p. 15). Like Don Quijote, he sympathizes with outcasts and detests the police; the only exception is the Civil Guard, which he would like to organize in the manner of the religious-military orders of classical Spain (p. 16).

Tristana also shares certain traits of Cervantes' hero. Her mother doña Josefina, insane in the last years of widowhood, models her life on her readings, which consist preferentially of Golden Age plays. She detests the realism of modern literature (p. 23). Many of Tristana's ideas, and her name itself, come from the literary-inspired insanity of her mother. From D. Lope, an anarquist in matters of love (p. 28), Tristana acquires the idea that marriage is slavery (p. 30). Like his archetypal counterparts, this aging Don Juan has the power to captivate the innocent heart and mind of his victim, fascinating her with tales that give flight to her fantasy, and provoking a simulated passion which at times fools even D. Lope himself (p. 30).

Significantly, all of Tristana's plans for achieving independence are related to careers involving the arts of communication, role-playing and simulation. She is indeed attracted to the study of foreign languages because she fancies that in some previous life she must have been either English or German; somewhere in her subconscious there remains the faint memory of a prior existence (p. 37).

As D, Lope ages, the pictorial comparisons used to characterize him change. His face of a Flanders soldier gradually loses its severe, clearcut lines (p. 41). But like Don Juan, and to some extent Don Quijote, he insists that he is immune to Nature's rules regarding aging (p. 42).

When Tristana's lover Horacio appears, both his self image and that perceived by Tristana are of an archetypal Romantic hero. He writes in a note to Tristana, «the day I discovered you was the last day of a long exile», (p. 55). He was raised in North Africa, Savannah, Georgia, Shanghai, China, and later lived in Spain. When his parents died, he was forced to live with a miserly grandfather, whose literary antecedent is revealed to be Quevedo's Licenciado Cabra (p. 61).

A new dimension emerges in the central passages of the novel, the   —74→   love-idyll. The protagonists invent a language of love, masterfully studied by Gonzalo Sobejano,100 which is based chiefly on Dante, Leopardi, and an Italian language mixed with Spanish (pp. 113-14). In the successive metamorphoses of Tristana, she alters her literary inspiration from Italian to English literature, changing from her role of Frasquita de Rimini and Señá Restituta to «Lady Restitute» (p. 143). Later, after the amputation of her leg, she tries briefly to construct a new imaginary world, no longer based on English but on Gallego-Portuguese, «Ainda mais») (p. 190).

Galdós' utilization of literary echoes to create images cannot be understood, however, without considering the humor and irony employed. Lest we take too seriously the D. Quijote-Don Juan archetypal identifications of D. Lope, the narrator loses few opportunities to poke fun at the disparity between appearances and reality in the protagonist. Throughout the novel, he employs diminutives and augmentatives to communicate an ironic viewpoint on the aspirations and fantasies of Tristana, as well as the delusions of D. Lope. The aging Don Juan spends «dos horitas» preparing for his appearances in the street (p. 9). Tristana is «bonitilla», «pequeñuela, roja la boquirrita», with «dientes menudos, pedacitos de cuajado cristal» (p. 10). During the narrator's survey of the sundry opinions regarding exactly who Tristana is, the diminutives used to portray her are suddenly juxtaposed with an augmentative; one version has it that she is «sobrina del señorón» (p. 11).

D. Lope is one of the «hijitos mimados de Adán», exempt from ordinary morality, we are told (p. 27). His «furious chivalry» towards Tristana's mother, the widow of his best friend, cracks the edifice of his «fortunilla» (p. 18). When the friend, Antonio de Reluz, dies, he leaves behind an inconsolable «viudita» (p. 19). The augmentative is again used in contrast to Tristana's diminutive nature when she tells Saturna why she is unfit to be a nun: «No valgo, no, para encerronas de toda la vida» (p. 35).

To make light of the pseudo-Romanticism of the young lovers, Galdós says of their first meeting, «corta y de provecho fue la escenita» (p. 52), deflating his accompanying simile comparing Tristana with a drowning person grasping onto a passing log. Horacio's «damita» is greatly impressed by the telling of his suffering as a child, but Galdós deflates its grandeur by stating that in Tristana's eyes her lover is a saint worthy of un huequecito en el martirologio» (p. 65).

Tristana claims the aging Don Juan's rheumatism is a just punishment for all the «maridillos» he has duped, and in a final deflation of the fallen idol, says: «¡Vaya una figurilla!» (p. 138). For D. Lope, on the other hand, Tristana is increasingly precious, and he tells Dr. Miquis, who would like to amputate her cancerous leg, «la piernecita de esta pobre mujer me parece a mí que nos va a traer el desequilibrio del Universo» (p. 173).

Numerous other techniques of humor and irony are used to impart   —75→   the novelist's point of view. In relation to D. Lope's peculiar concept of sexual morality, the old man is sure that the articles of the Decalogue treating what he calls the «pecatta minuta» constitute a «pegote añadido por Moisés a la obra de Dios»; they were obviously promulgated for political reasons and modern lawmakers should get down to the business of revoking them, «sin andarse en chiquitas» (p. 28).

An ironic touch is also applied to Tristana's otherwise laudable desire that women achieve equality as professional people, by converting several terms into what were at that time non-existent feminine forms. Tristana calls for «médicas, abogadas, ministras y senadoras» (p. 35).

A final aspect of Galdós' method which makes possible the central artistic process of the novel is his creation of literary symbols. The first indication of Tristana's uniqueness is her color, an unreal whiteness of pure alabaster, cheeks without color, but symbolic of her latent sexuality, «roja la boquirrita, labios un tanto gruesos..., reventando de sangre cual si tuvieran toda la que en el rostro faltaba» (p. 10). She is the faithful image of a Japanese lady, «de papel nítido, rostro blanco mate, de papel su vestido, de papel sus finísimas manos» (p. 11). Like Cervantes' Licenciado Vidriera, whose name symbolizes his transparent fragility, Tristana's appearance reflects her intrinsic unreality.

D. Lope, on the other hand, is symbolized by his various collections. Tristana joins his household in a period of decadence, when he has had to sell his ancient and modern weapons; all that remains is his collection of portraits of beautiful women (pp. 24-25). The narrator, Galdós, in the mask of outraged conventional bourgeois which many readers and critics make the mistake of taking literally, after describing D. Lope's sexual mores, rants that if there were no Hell, one would have to be created especially for him (p. 29). Although cloaked in irony, this statement is a symbolic key both to this novel and to Buñuel's version of it. In the end, Tristana, rather than the various collections he has had to sell, becomes the symbolic last possession in which resides the total meaning of D. Lope's existence (p. 92).

When Horacio suggests that they may have children, the quintessentially white Tristana, inheritor of the insane ideas of her mother and of D. Lope, says no; she believes that all children are born to die. One continually sees their white coffins passing through the streets (p. 107). The whiteness of the caskets, and the paper-whiteness of the protagonist form a dual symbolic identification, the meaning of which is that Tristana was born dead. She wants to be married to herself, to be her own head of household. This symbolic desire to combine both sexes in one reflects her mother's choice of name for her. She is the feminine version of the masculine archetypal lover, Tristan (p. 131). Symbolically, when Tristana claims her pain is caused by D. Lope's having infected her with his rheumatism, we perceive that he has symbolically crippled her by providing most of her insane ideas (p. 147).


One of the oft-mentioned symbolic elements of the novel is based on the popular Spanish adage, «La mujer honrada, pierna quebrada y en casa». The writer creates several images based on this saying. In a letter to Horacio, Tristana pleads: «No me amarres a la pata de una silla ni a la pata de una mesa con el cordel del matrimonio...» (p. 168). Later, the mutilated heroine speculates on whether the lover will continue to adore her with only one leg: «Y lo mismo has de quererme con un remo que con dos». (p. 181). The «pata» is metaphorically an oar; Tristana cannot advance any farther with one oar than she can as a woman tied to the domestic roles of the home. When she loses one bodily organ, D. Lope offers to buy her another, «un organito de música» (p. 190). This becomes a kind of artifical limb with which her fantasies can advance, but which symbolically is as useless as the orthopedic limb carried around but seldom worn by Buñuel's Tristana.

Another much discussed symbolc dimension is the Ibsen-like image of Tristana as a «doll». Casalduero declares that at no times does she possess doll-like characteristics, and this may in a sense be true. But at least in D. Lope's mind, instigator of Tristana's dreams, she is «la muñeca de mi vida» (p. 172). When he realizes he has molded her in such a way that she can never be loved by any other man, by abetting her fantasies, he refers to her as «¡pobre muñeca con alas!» (p. 182). She is a doll with fake wings, determined to reject the real in pursuit of the ideal, but without the means of doing so. Her amputation, which is symbolically a kind of castration, constitutes the definitive clipping of her wings of fantasy, Galdós tells us (p. 186).

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With these ingredients, Galdós constructs a dynamic interaction of personalities. It is important to note, however, that his protagonists are not conceived a priori as finished entities. They forge their own personalities before our eyes, and we also bear witness to their destruction. They emerge gradually from a mist of legend and conjecture; they create themselves, giving themselves names and providing meaning for those names. Existence precedes essence for them; they do not exist until they acquire consciousness of what they want to be.

The novel opens with mysterious speculation regarding D. Lope: who he is, what he is, and indeed, what his name is. Some call him D. Lope, some D. Lope de Sosa; others D. Lope Garrido; still others, D. Juan López Garrido. But what matters most is not what his name is in fact, but which name he wishes to possess. Symbolic of his awareness of who he is and who he wants to be, he adopts the name D. Lope (p. 7). We will either have to call him D. Lope or kill him, Galdós informs us. The name reflects the personality he creates, identified with the legendary Lope de Sosa of Baltasar del Alcázar's ballad and with the dynamism, creativity, and life-style of Lope de Vega Carpio.   —77→   Like his name, his age is impossible to determine for sure, like the hour of a broken clock (p. 8).

Another enigma is the identity of that incredible, unreal person who lives with D. Lope. Some think she is his niece, others his daughter, and out of the mist «sopló un nuevo vientecillo de opinión» to the effect that she is really his wife (p. 11). As with D. Lope, what matters is not who Tristana is but who she becomes. At first she is but a piece of furniture in D. Lope's house, resigned to being nothing more (p. 12). She emerges gradually from this state of nullity to be mesmerized by the hypnotic despotism of her seductor, who destroys all initiative in her, at least at first (p. 13). We do not even know Tristana's name until well into chapter II (p. 19).

From her mother Tristana inherits a mania for cleanliness and a continual yearning for the unknown, which in the mother had led to constant moving from one house to another (p. 21) and to the continual washing of clocks and even the family cat. The inherited disposition towards idealizing is soon exploited by D. Lope, who seduces her with the legend of his donjuanesque exploits (p. 31). But one day, eight months after her seduction, the mists suddenly lift and she sees him for what he really is, an old man three times her age. Galdós tells us that her awareness flowers like a lively plant for which Spring suddenly arrives, filling her with ideas, first buds, then splendid bouquets (p. 32). With this flowering comes the creation of her personality: the doll's wool changes into the blood and marrow of a real human being (p. 32).

She soon learns to dissimulate with D. Lope, but without realizing it, Tristana has become his disciple (p. 33). She accepts as her own his concept of matrimony as a diabolical enslavement of one person to another (p. 34). From her mother and from her so-called «tutor» she conceives the concept of economic independence for women through professions. We can admire her aspirations, as when she declares: «Yo quiero vivir, ver mundo y enterarme de por qué y para qué nos han traído a esta tierra...» (p. 35). But part of the explanation for her ultimate failure stems from the fact that everything seems simple to Tristana. She thinks, for example, it would be easy to become a writer, but in the next breath confesses that she has never even learned to master orthography (p. 36). She wraps herself in the imagined armor of the superiority of her talent, providing herself with what the narrator calls the kind of satisfactions that in adversity «fortifican por el momento como el alcohol, aunque a la larga destruyen» (p. 38).

As Tristana's definitive personality emerges, she and D. Lope experience a progressive reversal of roles. She and the servant Saturna begin to amuse themselves by making fun of D. Lope's donjuanesque decadence (pp. 39-40), and he in turn begins to change. The narcissist D. Lope of yore now sacrifices his presumption, pride, and money, to make Tristana happy. The narrator refers continually to her as the   —78→   «slave», but the term becomes increasingly more ironic in the context of this reversal of roles (p. 40).

D. Lope also begins to become aware of his own roleplaying. He sees that he can no longer be Don Juan, but wishes to choose his own part, refusing to play the role of the jealous husband (p. 42). He states that rather than ending his life by playing the fool, he would rather end tragically. In both Galdós and Buñuel, he ends by being both things (p. 43).

When Horacio emerges from the mist of non-being, we do not see him through the narrator's realistic presentation, but through the fantasied vision of Tristana. Like the other two protagonists, he emerges gradually out of mysterious, confusing details (p. 49). What matters in this instance, however, is not who or what he really is, but what Tristana wills him to be: an archetypal Romantic hero (p. 50). The last thing we learn about him is his name; in this instance, the creation of personality is accomplished principally not by the character himself, but by Tristana.

In Horacio's story we find that what has informed his own image of himself is a struggle between two sets of values, the bourgeois ideas of his tyrannical grandfather versus the Romantic values of his adolescent desires (p. 59). Ultimately, when Tristana pushes the Romantic extreme of this dichotomy to its limit, Horacio reacts by retreating to the bourgeois values he has earlier scorned.101

Significantly, what most attracts Tristana to this man is that he is a creator, an artist, precisely the qualities that will enable them to create an ideal world of love (p. 62).

Such is the exposition of characters in the novel, which having been created before the reader's eyes, will now interact and be destroyed.

In recounting to her lover how D. Lope seduced her, Tristana claims that what led to his success was the total surprise of his act (p. 81). She considers her cheating against the author of her dishonor as a punishment for his crime, although an insufficient one. Horacio is, if anything, even more taken with D. Lope's legendary exploits than Tristana, and he is determined to «burlar al burlador», robbing him of his last and most precious trophy (p. 83). But D. Lope is no longer Don Juan; he pleads with Tristana to allow him to do what he has never done for any woman, to look upon her with love (p. 87).

As Tristana flits from one fantasy to another in her vain attempts to fashion a profession from the Arts, Horacio becomes gradually aware of the destruction of his personality; his lover grows before his eyes, making him seem smaller by comparison (p. 97). This is unacceptable to his male ego, and Tristana's constant demands of passion threaten his work as a painter as well (p. 103). The lovers, in their idyll, become Paolo and Francesca, and D. Lope assumes for them a new role, Tristana's «Tyrant of Syracuse». To show their scorn for D. Lope's presumed   —79→   persona, they also begin to call him D. Lepe behind his back (p. 116).

With the separation of the lovers comes still another stage in the process of creating and destroying personalities. They agree to write two «cartitas» per week, «todos los días diariamente» (p. 126). The novelist ceases to be narrator and becomes the editor of the love-letters and interpreter of their symbolic language. In time, Tristana begins to ask herself if Horacio really exists or is only an illusion, requesting that he send her a short telegram, «una carta FUERA DE ABONO... que diga: EXISTO. FIRMADO, SEÑÓ Juan...» (p. 129). But her Señó Juan exists no longer, except in her mind; Horacio gradually reverts to his bourgeois values and Tristana is left with her fantasies (p. 132). This process is underlined artistically by showing how Horacio forgets the language of love they have invented (p. 137). Tristana, on the other hand, flies ever higher on the clavileño of her imagination, dreaming awake of being transported to other worlds of freedom and honor (p. 138).

During the love-idyll and letter-writing which follows, D. Lope completely disappears from the novel except as mentioned by Tristana, an exact reversal of the process seen at the beginning of the work. The process of his destruction is illustrated by Tristana's comments in her letters on how her ex-captor has now decided to understand her, supporting her desire to become an independent professional woman. He has engaged an English teacher, doña Malvina, the ex-Protestant missionary of Fortunata y Jacinta, and English literary models replace the ones formerly shared with the Italianist Horacio. Her literary idol is no longer Francesca but Lady Macbeth, symbol of a woman who transcends the limitations of her sex (p. 143).

Tristana even comes to a point where she admits to having forgotten Horacio's «mask», a significant term in connection with the roleplaying which has taken place (p. 148). She writes that she will now have to reconstruct him, recreate him through her imagination. We no longer see Horacio's answers; we sense their existence through Tristana's letters alone. She has now symbolically destroyed both her tormentor and her idealized lover. When the first signs of her illness come upon her, she writes to Horacio: «Yo no quiero ser coja. Antes...» (p. 152). The ellipsis clearly implies that she would rather die. Although she survives physically, it is in a living death, the Hell which had to be created for D. Lope if it did not exist.

Here begins the denouement of the novel, that lengthy section which most critics have denounced, the part where the ideologues claim that Galdós loses the opportunity to write a truly great novel and create a universal character.

D. Lope reenters the novel (p. 155). He no longer bothers with his appearance, and indeed plays Sancho to Tristana's Don Quijote. When her progressive illness causes her to forgo her fantasies, D. Lope feeds   —80→   her illusions, offering to buy her paints or bring books from which to study new roles (p. 157). He not only knows about her love-letters but even offers to write them for her (pp. 159 and 172). The narrator calls him almost exclusively D. Lepe. Although he is no longer Don Juan, he still cringes at the very thought of marriage. Therefore, he decides to assume the new role of Tristana's father (p. 160). He scoffs at the impossible notion of a domestic, married Tristana, an artist cooking eggs (p. 162).

The only thing which sustains the heroine during her worsening illness is the idealized lover of her imagination. In a letter she complains symbolically that her «pata» is rising to her head (p. 166). She now undergoes still another metamorphosis; she writes letters in which she too has forgotten the invented language of love. Her ideals of worldly love change gradually to a kind of Mysticism; so spiritual are her flights that at one point she declares the devil can take her leg, she has no need of it (p. 169). Horacio, reading about himself in Tristana's letters, begins to question his own reality (p. 171). He is no longer sure whether he is really himself or the person «D. Lepe's daughter» imagines him to be. We are now in a situation of total non-reality: D. Lope is not D. Lepe, Tristana is not his daughter, and Horacio is not the person she thinks he is.

So radical are the changes in D. Lope that he begins to experience a bifurcation of personality, resulting in dialogues with himself (p. 174). After Tristana's operation, Saturna, calling her master D. Lepe to his face, tries to convince him that he should allow Horacio to visit the convalescent (p. 196). D. Lope, a caricature of his former self, briefly flirts with the aging servant and then declares that just as Tristana's life has been cut off by the amputation of her leg, so he has cut himself off from his donjuanesque past: «he cortado la coleta y ya se acabaron las bromas...» (p. 197). He shall abandon that «other kind of love» in favor of a father's love for Tristana. Horacio becomes for him just another toy for the heroine, akin to the other illusions with which he sweetens her sterile existence. In allowing the presence of the ex-lover, D. Lope considers himself a saint, and this deed shall cleanse him of all the sins committed earlier against womankind, or so he says (pp. 198-199).

He declares that when Horacio visits Tristana, he will have to cower merely upon seeing D. Lope, because as he tells Saturna with Cervantine meaning, «soy quien soy...» But D. Lope is no longer who he was; belying his former character, he plans to hide in a nearby room and spy on the lovers, just to make sure he is right about the outcome of the meeting (p. 200). When Horacio arrives, all is as D. Lope knew it would have to be; the lover is seduced not by Tristana but by the legend of D. Lope's archetype; he senses the old man's superiority and is glad to have the opportunity of admiring from anear a character so legendary and poetic (p. 202).


As Tristana's ideals of marriageless love disappear, so her escape into fantasy through painting, identified with that idealized love, diminish and finally disappear (p. 217). They are soon replaced by a resurrection of fantasy in the form of a new persona for the heroine, the would-be concert musician (pp. 218-219). The senile D. Lope is of course enchanted with these new flights of imagination, which serve to consolidate his possession of her. Music becomes her «mare magnum», in which she loses herself completely (p. 233). She ceases to think about material things at all, and in neglecting her appearance, ages from her real 25 years to an apparent age of 40. We have seen how D. Lope metamorphosizes from lover to father. The daughter of Don Juan is now grotesquely equalized in age with her destroyer. Now that their roles are completely reversed, D. Lope soon follows Tristana into her latest escape, religion (p. 225). But during infrequent moments of lucidity, the senile Don Juan asks himself: «Pero ¿soy yo de verdad, Lope Garrido, el que hace estas cosas?» (p. 226). He senses a reversion to childhood, a new existence.

The narrator, in his feigned moralistic pose, laments that D. Lope's final days do not constitute the earthly punishment his sins deserve. His relatives in Jaén will aid him if he will only marry Tristana. Since everything that constituted the personalities of both protagonists has been destroyed, they both consent. D. Lope because he wants to provide for Tristana, and she because she is already spiritually dead (p. 231). The final activities of the spouses are grotesque parodies of the patterns of their former personalities: the ex-Don Juan takes care of six hens and a rooster, and Tristana becomes an expert in the domestic art of cooking. Whether they were happy in this life or not is beside the point; they are grotesque shadows of personalities which have ceased to exist (p. 232).

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Almost all who have written about the two versions of Tristana comment on the notable difference of media and style between Galdós and Buñuel. In contrast to the novelist's realism and psychological treatment of characters, 78 years later Buñuel uses the camera «as a psychoanalyst uses the couch».102 Realism gives way to surrealism, and Buñuel, fascinated with the psyche and the irrational, probes both the freedom of the subconscious and simultaneously explores a social consciousness. Galdós, it is claimed, is interested in ideas; Buñuel, in images, which gush forth like fountains in a kind of onslaught on the viewer.103 We can identify in the film Tristana many of the typical obsessions of Buñuel's prior works: anticlericalism, madness, death, dreams, sacrilege.

But a careful examination of Galdós' novel reveals that it is far less rooted in reality than has been stated, and a study of Buñuel's script   —82→   results in the surprising discovery that despite frequent surrealistic images and techniques, the film is more closely related to reality and a specific historical moment than the novel. The plate of «migas», the vulgar «cocido», the ancient restaurant with its large picture windows, the «tertulias», the huge, ramshackled houses, the interminable hallways, the long sleeping gowns, the typical streets of the provincial capital with its pharmacies, pastry shops, and coffee houses104, all serve to demonstrate that the film does not deal only with the darker side of human nature in general, as has been suggested, but also with the relationship between certain human beings and their society.105

These realistic images of a Spain in which time has solidified into a kind of death-mask serve to emphasize the survival of a traditional, reactionary Spain of the past which persists dangerously and anachronistically in the present, with signs of decrepitude, decadence and ugliness. A repressed society without freedom, plagued with religious, moral, and political tabus which asphyxiate it.106

These pictorial images replace Galdós' use of literary echoes, and instead of his devices of humor and irony through narration, Buñuel employs sounds, or the absence of sound to achieve a similar effect of timelessness, of frozen tradition. There is no musical background in the film; the first image we see is of an immobile Castilian city, frozen in silence like El Greco's famous «View of Toledo». To accentuate this impression of a world deaf to modern ideas, two women dressed in funeral clothes walk towards a game being played by deaf-mutes, accompanied only by the sound of churchbells, tolling life and death, the two poles of the film.107

Just as in Galdós' version Tristana ceases to write in the language of love which earlier characterized her will of personality, Buñuel's Tristana towards the end of the film ceases to speak; we hear only the incessant clop-clop of her crutches up and down the hallway, like the sound of a caged animal. In the final scene, with the dying D. Lope, we hear only the abrasive metallic sound of the opening of curtains, symbolizing the opening of the window of what she thinks is her liberation.

Although Andrés Amorós asserts that 80% of the plot of the film is entirely new, it is important to note that despite many changes made by the filmmaker reflecting his typical idiosyncrasies, most of his innovations are elaborations of motives present but unemphasized in the novel. For example, Buñuel focuses on a scene in the novel when Tristana and Saturna visit the latter's son Saturno; but he appropriates for his central characterization of the boy something that in Galdós was a mere detail, the incident of passing a group of blind and deaf-mute children in the street (p. 47). Galdós had commented on the startling spectacle of observing how the deaf-mutes speak without words, and Buñuel uses this as one of his chief symbolic devices.

Buñuel's Freudian interest in Tristana's simultaneous attraction for and innate fear of D. Lope comes from Galdós' dialogue, in which D. Lope   —83→   recalls the terror felt by the infant girl when her future seducer would parade her around the house in his arms, showing her the symbolic trappings of his assumed persona, his lion and tiger skins, and portraits of beauties (p. 91). Even the typically Buñuelian obsession with Tristana's artificial limb, a combination of the sensual and the grotesque, is suggested by Galdós' word pictures of Tristana playing the harmonium with one foot and other images of her implied sensuality (p. 193).

A film critic in Spain, Ed Rab (Reus), has described the manner in which Catherine Deneuve portrays the metamorphoses of Tristana in the film.108 She appears first as an adolescent, gawky and small-townish; later, half-amused, half-surprised, she receives D. Lope's first kiss; then, an anguished Tristana, frightened by nightmares; afterward, a Tristana surprised by her own weakness in accepting a date with Horacio, a complete stranger; Tristana subsequently appears embittered when she realizes her impotence to retain her lover without relying on compassion, after the operation; next, the sadistic Tristana, exposing herself on the balcony to excite and torment Saturno; finally, the triumphant, vengeful Tristana who pretends to call the doctor and anxiously awaits the death of the man she hates. These photo-like changes constitute a new manner of presenting the metamorphoses that Galdós depicted through other means.

From this point I shall trace Buñuel's process of creating and destroying personalities, as reconstructed from the film's script, published in book form in 1971.109 The script indicates that the film begins in any cold month of 1929. When the camera takes us to D. Lope's house, the worn-out curtains and threadbare sheets elicit feelings of decadence (p. 25). The protagonist's first words express his antireligious views. He wants to cure the young Tristana of her superstitions, as she fingers the crucifix of her recently deceased mother (p. 27).

The next day, more is revealed, not trough dialogue but via a brief action. D. Lope expresses his peculiar anarquism and distaste for the police as symbols of authority, by abetting the escape of a petty thief (p. 29). Two additional images reveal other facets of his personality. Saturna, while looking at the gallery of portraits of women he has seduced, comments on his donjuanesque exploits, admiring his archetypal identification and affirming that he is a good man, except for his madness regarding women. Soon afterward, his friend D. Cosme comes to consult about a duel in which D. Lope is asked to be judge; he is as in Galdós a kind of high priest of traditional honor (p. 33).

But unlike Galdós' Tristana, Buñuel's is possessed of an intrinsic sexuality which predates her seduction. On several occasions she observes the onanistic behavior of the deaf-mute aturno (p. 42), and sexual games are attempted with her in the belltower of the cathedral (p. 36). The real suddenly merges into the surreal, as the clapper of the churchbell, which first appears in the form of an enormous phallus, becomes   —84→   the severed head of D. Lope. The afternoon's visit has been transformed cinematographically into a nightmare from which Tristana awakens screaming (p. 37). It is a presentiment of what is to come; she is afraid of D. Lope, yet anticipates that he will ultimately become the victim.

If in Galdós the contrast between appearances and reality was achieved mainly through literary echoes combined with humor and irony, in Buñuel the effect is produced by juxtaposing successive «images». First we see D. Lope in his «tertulia» explaining that in affairs of love, there is no sin and there are no rules of honor (p. 41). Immediately following is a domestic scene in which D. Lope gives what little food he has to his ward Tristana (p. 45).

Tristana's native willfulness and sexuality are portrayed indirectly through several variations on a single motif: she is constantly making choices between things which seem identical. She asks D. Lope which of several apparently identical columns he likes best (p. 51); while eating garbanzos, she separates them and tries to find the best one (p. 60); and while strolling through the timeless city with Saturna, sees two identical streets and asks which one the servant likes best (p. 63). Amidst these motives, suddenly, with no apparent connection with what came before, we observe D. Lope arranging for Saturna to leave early. He then appears in Tristana's bedroom, where she undresses wordlessly with eyes inflamed, according to the script, and the image fades out with D. Lope dislodging a dog from the bed and closing the door (p. 55). The juxtaposition of the motif of Tristana's willfulness with the ensuing scene creates the idea in the viewer that one cannot be sure who does the seducing of whom.

The script then indicates that two years have passed; it is now 1931. Workers are on strike and a barrage of stones is thrown at the attacking police. One of the strikers is the deaf-mute Saturno. The boy, characterized by an elemental sexuality, is from this point seen constantly, reappearing in new roles. This process constitutes another way of achieving the effect produced by Galdós' utilization of continually changing literary echoes. Saturno mirrors the attempts of the Second Spanish Republic to bring about change. But like the Republic, despite frenetic and constant movement, his actions end in failure. Each instance of the boy's vain attempts to operate in the modern world is followed by the return of the camera to D. Lope's museum-like house, where the protagonist can no longer hide the ravages of age (p. 57). D. Lope, who lives badly but is proud of being able to survive without working, is contrasted with the images of the deaf-mute Saturno, who futilely takes part in an attempt to build a new social order in which work is dignified and rewarded (p. 60).

While D. Lope remains immersed in the traditional world of the «tertulia» with his cronies, Tristana in contrasting «images» begins a campaign to escape from the museum-home into the life of the «real world»   —85→   (p. 61). As her eyes open progressively to the fact that her Don Juan is old and ridiculous, visions of the decapitated D. Lope as bellclapper recur (p. 62). D. Lope is seen spending ever more time applying cosmetics to himself, retouching the color of his beard and hair.

One day, Saturna informs him that Tristana wishes to sleep alone (pp. 66-67). As D. Lope perceives through intuition the existence of «algún galancete de esquina», Tristana aggressively throws back at him his own indoctrination: is she not free? (p. 69). It is at this point that Buñuel's D. Lope decides to assume the dual role of husband and father to Tristana (p. 70). A chance meeting with his wealthy sister results in a violent flare up of emotions, but when D. Lope is gone, the elderly sister laments to a friend that whether she likes it or not, D. Lope will inherit her money when she dies (p. 70).

Saturno, ever changing roles and ever enslaved by his sexual obsessions and deafness, is about to be fired from another job, in a factory. In immediate juxtaposition we witness the image of Tristana explaining to Horacio the nature of her relationship with D. Lope. She says that although she is dishonored, she is free to love him. By analogy, the two «scenes» communicate the notion that Tristana is as trapped in her world of unreality as is Saturno in his.

D. Lope begins to become the object of Tristana's open scorn. She notes that before he puts on his makeup and disguises, he is a disgusting old man: «El gallo pierde sus plumas y ya no canta» (p. 79). When he requests his worn-out slippers, she purposefully deposits them in the trash-can (p. 80).

Saturno changes jobs again, carrying cement in a construction project (p. 81). In juxtaposition, Horacio wants Tristana to marry him and leave the city. But like Saturno trapped in his obsessions and useless activities, the protagonist is seen to be trapped in the world of ideas instilled in her by D. Lope. She thinks she is destined for a career in music and claims to be absolutely unsuited for any domestic role (pp. 82-83).

D. Lope, aware of the existence of a rival, pleads with Tristana to let him do what he has never done with any woman: look upon her with love (p. 86). He is willing to assume this new «role», but not the part of tyrant in a cheap domestic comedy (pp. 86-87). In the darkness of nightfall, D. Lope bares his soul and thanks Tristana for bringing youth into his old age. He confesses his crime against her but claims it happened because he could not convince himself that he is really old (p. 88).

Saturno reappears in still another role, as newsboy (p. 89). In juxtaposition, Horacio persists in his desire to marry Tristana. When she refuses, using D. Lope's arguments, he says: «Me estás recordando al sinvergüenza ése. Hablas como él» (p. 90). D. Lope and Horacio fight, and the latter easily subdues the older adversary. Far from being comforted by the aid he gets from some passers-by outraged by the fight   —86→   between two men of such disparate ages, D. Lope emerges completely humiliated by this irrefutable unmasking of his role-playing (p. 92). Like Don Quijote after his numerous defeats, he retires with what dignity he can muster (p. 93).

More time passes; it is now 1932. D. Lope's sister has died, leaving him her money. He rails as he attends the funeral that he hates the «carnival of priestly cassocks», and would not have attended at all had she not been his sister (p. 97). He rejoices, however, that he can now live in dignity and comfort, declaring cynically, «el muerto al hoyo y el vivo a...» (p. 97).

Some time later, Horacio returns to the city with the gravely ill and much aged Tristana (p. 105). The doctor, Miquis, orders the amputation of the cancerous leg and suggests they call a confessor, but D. Lope rants that priests will never enter his house (p. 108). After the operation, D. Lope encourages Horacio to visit Tristana, knowing that he will not want to marry the crippled girl, and sensing the chance to gain revenge over his rival (p. 112). When Horacio comes to visit and states that Tristana seems like another person, she grotesquely proves that of course she is, by raising her dress and displaying the amputation.

The years continue to pass and it is now 1935. D. Lope has settled totally into his single role as father, and no longer bothers with disguises or playacting. As a priest visits her in the garden, Tristana flaunts her orthopedic leg in her lap, refusing as usual to wear it. Her visitor tries to convince her to marry D. Lope. The latter, in a complete reversal of roles, is in favor of the marriage, but Tristana, the warped disciple, remains faithful for the moment to the teaching of her former master. The priest warns her that «ese rencor tiene algo de satánico» (p. 121). D. Lope no longer prohibits Tristana from going to church, and even ends up by accompanying her.

The world thinks the pious Tristana is consoled by her daily visits to Church, but other «images» belie the outward tranquility of her demeanor. Saturno makes repeated sexual advances to her in the bedroom, dressing room, and garden, all rebuffed energetically by Tristana. But her repressed sexuality, heightened if anything by the amputation, leads her to taunt the deaf-mute by displaying herself nude from the balcony, slowly opening her bathrobe, according to the script, «de modo altivo y sereno, como si nada» (p. 124).

Eventually, D. Lope and Tristana are married, and on their wedding night, the old man, in pajamas, applies his cosmetics and perfumes himself, only to have Tristana abruptly inform him that she finds his pretensions simply incredible (p. 126). D. Lope degenerates rapidly into senility and becomes a typical bourgeois, the antithesis of his former self, entertaining little groups of priests at home in the evening, with hot chocolate and pastries. All the while, Tristana clomps incessantly, compulsively up and down the endless hall on crutches, always without her orthopedic leg (p. 129). D. Lope remarks one night to the priests   —87→   that life is not as bad as many think; it is snowy and cold outside, but inside they are nice and warm.

Immediately follows an image of a world of snow, in which Tristana in a nightmare once again sees the severed head of D. Lope as phallus and bell-clapper (p. 131). The old man is dying and is barely able to tell Tristana that lie has probably had a stroke; he lies paralyzed in bed. Tristana pretends to call the doctor, and later opens the window, letting in the frigid air to finish the job of killing her tormentor (p. 132). When she thinks he is dead, she shakes him to make sure, and then returns to bed, where she has a final nightmare consisting of a series of photoimages of all the climatic scenes of her life: the severed head of D. Lope appears incessantly, the wedding ceremony in the cathedral is juxtaposed purposefully with the balcony scene in which she bares her body to torment Saturno, and the scenes of love with Horacio in his studio are contrasted with the image of D. Lope in his bathrobe dragging the young girl to bed for the first time.

It is now 1936, apotheosis of the tumult which characterized the last days of that experiment in modernization which was the Second Spanish Republic, and which is about to be ended by one of the most cruel civil wars in history. Afterward will come an almost complete reversion to the kind of fossilized society depicted in the film's stagnant, paralyzed images of Toledo. Like the Spain it reflects, the film ends where it began, an empty circle; Tristana and Saturna, dressed in funeral clothes, walk once again towards the asylum for deaf-mutes.

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The purpose of Buñuel's obsessed image-making, according to Grossvogel, is to reveal the «monstrous disparity between what surfaces actually are and what they claim to be»; for him, the film unfolds «like a dark, secret bloom, the ambiguity that Galdós only hinted at».110 But if we penetrate beyond the commonly-held view of Galdós' novel as an aborted attempt to present an archetype of the new woman, and see the work as a representation of the tragic interplay of human relationships in a world where Tristana's ideals of love, work, and independence are impossible, Buñuel's «secret bloom» can be identified in the source from which he took it. In both works we find the image of an aging Don Juan who creates a monster and is finally destroyed by his own victim. The process of creation and destruction of personality which is common to both versions is presented in the context of a counterpoint between tradition and change, movement and paralysis.

In view of these intrinsic similarities, and as Galdós' fellow Canarian Andrés Amorós has written (art. cit.), Buñuel's modernized version of Tristana proves that Pérez Galdós is a writer contemporary with his   —88→   own era but also with ours. His work is a fertile source of material ripe for successive reinterpretations, none of which diminish the value of their model.

University of Southern California

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