La Ultina Cena, directed by Tomas Guttierrez Alea, gives a quite artistic view of the brutality inflicted on slaves who rebelled against the authority of their masters. The film beautifully portrays the culture clash between slaves in Cuba and the European elite who owned them, including differences in religion. These differences are highlighted in the scene in which the count invites his slaves to a re-creation of the Last Supper, in which the Count assumes the role of Jesus and the slaves the role of the 12 apostles. The wealthy count attempts to indoctrinate his slaves in the glory of suffering and service through a number of biblical stories and antedotes. This indoctrination of course fails, and the slaves, because of their seemingly elevated status and “goodness” of their master following the strange dinner party.
The film is in fact rooted in historical reality, based upon a small paragraph the director discovered in the work of one of Cuba’s most prestigious historians, Manuel Morino Frangenals, in which the Count de Casa Bayona invites 12 of his slaves to a re-enactment of the Last Supper. These slaves, “because their theology was somewhat shallow and, instead of behaving like apostles, they took advantage of the new-found prestige they had thus acquired in their fellow slaves eyes to organize a mutiny and burn down the mill.” (Mraz) The count then had the insurrection brutally suppressed and the 12 mens heads places on pikes. The film portrays this small antidote quite well, but goes into the minds of the slaves as well. The slaves clearly don’t understand the lofty tales of Christian morality that the Count is attempting to subjugate them with; they come from a much different culture and the concept of happily suffering in bondage under an European overlord doesn’t make sense to them. It would be interesting to note how the Count’s theology would change if he himself were a slave.
The film does not only show the distinct differences in understanding and culture between slaves and their owners but also demonstrates the brutality that the institution of slavery inflicted upon slaves. This sentiment was made clear in Brazil when Sr. Costa Barros stated that there, “is no more wretched and horrific condition as that of the slaves…” (Schultz) The film portrays perfectly how the fear of rebellion by owners and overseers led them to make horrific examples of the slaves who did attempt to rebel against their inhumane captivity. The first example of this brutality, is when the movie’s hero, Sebastan, has his ear cut off after he tries to escape the plantation. The final, and most notable example, is the placing of the heads on the pikes and the end of the film as an example for other slaves whom may have rebellion in their minds. It is interesting the Count abandons all Christian morality at the end of the film when his slaves have rebelled and instead reverts to violence and barbarism to totally wipe out any threat to his economic interests. He even orders the bodies of killed slaves to be removed for the church after only the night before teaching the slaves “Christian morality.”