Lucia is a popular girl's name in Cuba, and has been for many years, ever since the Spanish ruled the island, but what if we took three women so-named and had a look at a tumultuous point in their lives? There is Lucia from 1895 (Raquel Revuelta), a spinster in the aristocracy who finally finds love just as the revolutionaries begin to cause upheaval, Lucia from 1933 (Eslinda Núñez), another well-off woman who marries below her class and finds herself trapped in a revolution, and Lucia from 196-something, who wishes to improve her social standing but her pathologically jealous husband refuses to allow her even to leave their home, never mind learn to read...
This film from Cuban director Humberto Solás was responsible, along with a select few others, of having Latin American films taken seriously across the globe, or as seriously as those films wished to be taken at any rate. It was highly praised as it began to be seen outside of its home country throughout the nineteen-seventies, and though there were quibbles about some of its content - that third part was not always well-received - in general there was an excitement that Spanish-language cinema was enjoying a new dawn. Certainly without artists like Solás pioneering the form, world cinema as a whole would be in a far poorer state, but is this often returned to?
You could argue there was always going to be a niche degree of attention paid to works like Lucia, especially when this in particular lasted nearly three hours and presented some heavyweight ruminations on the state of Communist politics versus their capitalist equivalents which the mass audience have grown less and less interested in as the decades have gone by. An epic black and white tract may not be everyone's idea of a good time, and it may have been necessary to read up on Cuban history to get the full benefit of what Solás was attempting to convey, but what he did achieve was a tone of great importance, with many scenes erupting into a kind of hysteria.
Take the first segment, where spinster Lucia finds the man of her dreams, a rich landowner from Spain who could potentially take her away from all this - naturally, there's a catch. Held within this near-hour of drama were a flashback to the local madwoman, where it is revealed how she went mad as she had previously been a nun who blessed the dying on the battlefield, only to have those soldiers she was tending to turn on her and her fellow sisters as they gang raped them. It was a powerful sequence, no doubt, and led into a depiction of a battle where naked natives on horseback attacked the Spanish soldiers, utterly overwhelming them as much thanks to the terror they struck in their victims as their blades. By placing these two scenes in the first part, they coloured the rest of the film when you anticipated more of the same.
But it did not quite play out like that, as the director opted to use different approaches for the following two episodes, so the '33 Lucia was more of a tragedy than a war movie, with the lady in question heading for heartbreak and desolation as her youthful exuberance is knocked out of her by harsh realities. This also featured a battle, but it was more a guerrilla warfare on the streets of Havana, a skirmish which would lead to an overthrow only for the new regime to be as corrupt as the old one. It remained impressive, but the last instalment was more of a comedy, except it wasn't very funny, the husband Tomas (Adolfo Llauradó) an example of toxic masculinity who did not come across as entertaining to watch as he makes his wife a prisoner in their own home, literally nailing her into the house. But if this built to an anti-climax of sorts, there was enough spirit in each of the stories to make you understand why Lucia was such a vital effort which so stood out in the film landscape of the seventies. Music by Leo Brouwer (including regular bursts of Guantanamera).