The best thing I can say about Luis López Carrasco‘s El futuro [The Future] is that it got me researching Spain’s 1982 general elections. How could it not? With an opening of just a pitch-black screen as archival voices sound out victory for the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE) and the systemic change it promised to implement once the Union of the Democratic Centre (UCD) left office, not knowing what any of it means makes you question your grasp on world history and whether this is something you should know about. I’m not certain if the answer is yes considering I still don’t quite know the intricacies of the political climate of that time, but it definitely was a critical moment for the nation itself.
It’s wild to read all the different players involved from the aforementioned parties, the People’s Alliance (AP), Democratic and Social Centre (CDS), the Communist Party of Spain (CDS), the Basque Country and Freedom group (ETA) responsible for domestic terrorist attacks, and a myriad others. Many people believe this election is what cemented Spain as a truly democratic nation because voter turnout was insane due to the people seeing how bad the current regime was doing. So it’s no wonder that the youth of Spain would throw the types of parties Carrasco depicts in the aftermath—hope was alive and freedom was truly in reach. What better reason would you have for bumping coke, drinking until drunk, and making out with impunity? None.
But without a background in the historical ramifications of that moment it all simply plays as a party. Not only am I ignorant to Spanish politics, I’ve never been one to enjoy this type of cacophonous get-together. The only thing worse than combatting the awkwardness of silently watching the chaos of writhing bodies and spilled alcohol is doing so on a giant screen where you don’t know the revelers and have no way to communicate with them. This is how the film unfolds, though. It’s as though we’re witnessing cobbled together home video footage complete with fuzzy interludes, missing frames, and shoddy audio. Sometimes the voices of the people are heard and others it’s the blaring music. Sometimes the words are meaningful and others obtuse.
There’s talk about the ETA and cops being killed. There’s talk about gender, sexuality, and drug use. There’s even a woman dancing in her bra who frequently takes her breast out for friends to drink milk. I’m not even kidding. At first the music overpowers to turn these conversations into a dull drone, then Carrasco raises the volume of his actors when relevant asides are being shared. Next he inexplicably chooses to leave the fun altogether by instead showing static family photos without context. Each one lingers for a few seconds, scrolling through one by one until fuzz returns us to the video footage. A pop is heard and we no longer can understand words or lyrics. Suddenly the piece becomes even more abstract.
Are we experiencing a “beginning of the end” scenario? This is what I initially believed because the next interlude of static photography comes via film stills of the party itself hole-punched and damaged as though to erase the existence of the characters the resulting black void covers. But reading about the elections shows how the PSOE’s win was a victory unlike any the nation had yet achieved. These kids should have a future full of opportunity and promise awaiting them, not a looming abyss of emptiness. Did Spain spiral into a youth crisis of drug-abuse and suicide? Or is my being so far removed from the events (I was born the year this film takes place in America) render the whole indecipherable?
I’m leaning towards the latter because El futuro surely strikes a chord with those who lived it and experienced its emotional roller coaster ride. Instead of connecting on that deeper level, I only have the ability to appreciate it viscerally and aesthetically. In these regards Carrasco hits a homerun. From wardrobe to bubbly attitudes and dance style to film artifacting and aural soundscape, this thing epitomizes the 80s. It captures the look and feel in a universal way that therefore has me believing it also immortalizes the philosophical and psychological tone I don’t understand. To me the visuals transform what’s a raucous party into a metaphor for disaster—a horror film of sorts where the fun always ends with a cluttered mess.
Is it a comment on our present-day returning to such unavoidable conflicts? Maybe. You can’t help seeing correlations between these conversations about shooting police, knowing your significant other beyond their surface, or the cavalier attitude towards drugs and our current state of affairs—American affairs for that matter. But is that intentional or just my brain trying to find meaning in what is otherwise a well-made curio of vintage production design documenting a moment in history that literally has no bearing on my life (no disrespect intended to the people of Spain)? All I know is that Carrasco crafted an art piece with a very niche audience. Above a formal appreciation, anyone outside that specific audience is unavoidably kept at arm’s length.