THEY SAID SPAIN MUST HAVE LIT THE RIGHT CANDLE: A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL
By Erika Tiburcio Moreno (*)
A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL (Eugenio Martín, 1973) was produced in a very interesting period for women in Spain. Before talking about the film, it is important to know that 1953 had been a landmark for Spain, because of the signing of the Pact of Madrid between Spain and the United States. Consequently, the autarchy was replaced with a more open system based on a consumer society.
Franco’s attachment to Catholicism is one of the main reasons to understand the creation of the Women’s Section of Falange. Catholic motherhood (selfless and devout woman), honour and Christian marriage were some of the main ideas which this section had to spread among women. The development of consumption, the arrival of liberated female tourists and the increasing contacts among Spain and foreign countries prompted some revolutionary changes in the woman’s role. In the 60s and 70s, a new kind of woman was born: modern, consumerist and increasingly remote from the traditional role of being only a mother.
UNA VELA PARA EL DIABLO deals with both female models, which had to live together and struggle to defeat the other. Marta and Veronica, the sisters who run the hotel and the restaurant in Los Arcos, embody that traditional Francoist femininity taught by the Women’s Section. That way, their necessity of being moral guardians set off the murder of several female tourists who behave indecently (according to Catholic precepts). Acts such as sunbathe topless, being a single mother or get drunk are seen as sins of modernity, which must be punished by them.
Their excessive control is due to their spinsterhood, because in Spain, during Franco dictatorship, whether a woman wasn’t married, it resulted in a social stigma for her. It is important to remind that motherhood was the main goal for women and, in case of not achieving it, it was the woman the one to blame. In an attempt to prevent social discrimination, these old single ladies must impose order and we can see in the film, where these two sisters assume the responsibility of finishing female sinners off. As we can notice, almost all victims are also single but, unlike Marta and Veronica, they are younger and they are having a good time. This behavior was allowed because society suffered from many changes and advances during the seventies.
The director plays with the idea of a violent clash between the modern woman and the traditional woman. Furthermore, the place where they come from is crucial as well, because the settings are also related to mental concepts. In the case of A CANDLE FOR THE DEVIL, the village is presented as a place where modernity hasn’t arrived yet and old-fashioned life endures. However, tourists come from abroad and are less chaste and more joyful. The fear of modernity in the rural Spain and its arrival force these sisters to defend their lifestyle wildly. Likewise tourists’ sexy clothes are opposed to Marta and Veronica’s black and excessively demure dresses.
A very powerful image in the film is when the sisters look through the window valances in order to monitor what is happening outside. Even nowadays, when you visit a remote and tiny village in Castile, it is possible to witness this image. On the one hand, this image represents the constant social control over neighbors. On the other hand, this image is a perfect example of hypocrisy because, behind closing doors, there was the possibility of people behaving depravedly. As the story unfolds, Marta and Veronica, two role models, reveal a sinful behavior: vanity (Marta enjoys looking at herself on the mirror), lust (Veronica and Luis have sex without being married) and wrath (they kill “sinners”). As all horror movies, social troubles are transformed into dreadful acts and, this movie is no exception. The hypocrisy as well as a hidden side in privacy could trigger a killing spree or, something worst, the meals that a lifelong neighbor prepares could make me commit cannibalism.
Erika Tiburcio (nancykrueger) lives in Madrid and works as a teacher. Currently she is doing her PhD thesis about the serial killer in American horror movies from Psycho to Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. She loves horror movies, comic books, video games, etc. She has contributed to some Spanish websites and magazines like Phenomena Experience magazine and La Mansión del Terror and has written some articles for different international magazines like Serial Killer Calendar.