High drama, low key: visual aesthetics and subject positions in the domestic Spanish television serial

Hugh O'Donnell

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This paper is the (no doubt provisional) result of an attempt to analyse the long-running serials recently and currently available on Spanish television—in both its state-wide and its “autonomous” institutional forms—on the basis of what seemed at first sight to be relatively obvious, and straightforward, stylistic differences. Programmes like Goenkale in the Basque Country, El cor de la ciutat in Catalonia or Arrayaacuten in Andalusia seemed for the most part to adopt a relatively low-key visual narrative style featuring many of the characteristics which we in the UK would identify as common in our own mainstream soap operas: limited camera and lens movements, predominantly eye-level shooting, relatively sedate editing, a more or less complete absence of “tampering” with narrative time, a refusal—whether conscious or otherwise—of the artful or the symbolic. TVE's productions, on the other hand, seemed somehow more highly-strung. Much of this, it is true, appeared to be more a function of the mise en scegravene (broadly defined) than anything else: more grandiose interiors and occasionally exteriors, more beautiful actors and actresses, more flamboyant and more quick-change fashions, more overstated acting, even more saturated colours. Other programmes such as the Madrid-Andalusia co-production Vidas cruzadas or the Galician Riacuteas Baixas could be at times extravagantly adventurous with their filming with rooftop shots, high-speed car chases shot from the point of view of the pursuing driver, and so on.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Spanish Cultural Studies
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2007


  • Spanish television
  • media
  • culture


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