history 475- week 3

The film, La última Cena focuses on slavery in a Havana sugar mill and portrays the interactions between the slaves and their overseers. The dynamics of these relationships is interesting, and based on historical evidence the film shows accurate depictions of these slave and master relationships. While some slaves, like Sebastian, rebel and act upon their desire to be free, others accept their fate and play into the Count’s explanation that slavery can bring about happiness. While one of the main goals of the film was to convey an accurate depiction of the way slaves and their masters interacted on a daily basis, on a deeper level it aimed to show the submissive attitude some slaves had towards their situations. 

There are various elements at play throughout the film that aid in depicting these relationships. John Mraz stated: “critical reflection on classical historical portrayal in cinema also takes place in relation to various elemental issues: the relative importance of individuals and classes, and of religion and law in specific historical circumstances” (Mraz 108). We see these issues at play in the film, and they are critical to the historical significance of the film. The class divide between the slaves and the overseers is the most obvious issue at play. Through this class divide, individuals rise. Sebastian represents the unrest slaves had, through his constant rebellious nature he stands somewhat apart from the other submissive slaves. The Count also represents an individualistic nature, he aims to treat his slaves as “Christ-like”as possible and wants to bring Christ to them. However, the good nature he appears to possess diminishes by the end of the film, and he begins to treat the slaves the same way Don Manuel had. 

Religion and law is a vital element in understanding the film in its historical context. After the recreation of the last supper with the Count, he rewards the slaves by telling them they will not have to work on Good Friday. Through the Count’s religiously based generosity, he had aimed at giving them a break while actually having a higher purpose. Through that generosity he wanted to reiterate that the slaves could know happiness, and thereby reinstate the slave-master relationship at the sugar mill. Unfortunately, this act of kindness is undermined by Don Manuel. Don Manuel’s action brings about the slave revolt,and ultimately his death in an ironic sense.

       Don Manuel represents the law in the sugar mill while Don Gasper represents religion and in a subtle way takes the side of the slaves, as does the Count through the religious experiences he pursues. John Mraz’s critical analysis of La última Cena recognizes the importance religion had in the film. “Religion is a central element in The Last Supper. This film lacks the formal complexity of The Other Francisco, but it too uses a historical document as its catalyst” (Mraz 113). The film uses the “washing of the feet” and “the last supper” to foreshadow events taking place in the film. The film is very straight-forward and it is not hard to decipher through the relationships between the various characters and understand the differences in the social classes.