La ultima cena (1976) -Blog

The film La ultima cena (The Last Supper), depicts a historical recreation of a sugar cane plantation in Cuba towards the end of the 18th century. Despite the fairly accurate presentation of a slave uprising, the most captivating thing about this film, are the interactions between the owner, Count, and the 12 slaves he decides to reenact the “Last Supper” with. The supporting characters in the film, including the overseer and Catholic priest, are used symbolically to depict the different angles taken on slavery, through brutal force and religion. As well as a few other obvious key themes, including race and hierarchy, the film also depicts hypocrisy and a disposition towards kindness and compassion. 

The main scene in the film is based around the story of the “Last Supper”, when Jesus Christ and his 12 disciples dine together before Jesus is to be crucified. Hence the name of the movie, this scene lays the ground work and foreshadow for a slave revolt. The Count decides it is a good idea to reenact this with his slaves, comparably justifying his actions to Jesus. He provides food and wine, and asks the slaves what they like most about the mill. The Count then tells a story, explaining that happiness in life is sorrow and that enslavement should be embraced not hated. While this scene is pans out, the Count becomes considerably more and more inebriated. Because he is becoming more intoxicated with each sip of wine, the Count begins granting things he cannot ensure. He informs the slaves that they do not have to work on Good Friday and grants an older slave his freedom. This ties in most definitely with the themes of hypocrisy and good natured disposition. The Count so desperately wants to be good to his slaves, but by showing them what they could have and promising them things he did not mean, fails at this attempt. As well as undermining the overseer and hypocritically not backing up his word to the slaves, he systematically creates a slave revolt with his own hands.

Historically speaking, this film depicted many accurate images of the use of religion through slavery as well as the brutal force taken upon the slaves by the slave owners. In the article “Recasting Cuban Slavery” by John Mraz, John quotes from Robert Rosenstone, writing, “that in order for a film to be considered historical rather than just a costume drama, it must engage directly the issues, ideas, data, and arguments of the ongoing discourse of history”. La ultima cena does this extremely well through its portrayal of the slaved run sugar cane plantation and Spanish land owner. By interpreting the issues of the how exploitation through religion based justification occurred, the film is able to create a clear historical depiction of how things were, whilst maintaining character development and a defined story line.

La ultima cena, despite a less believable story line, captures through film, history at its best. Combining real believable events, for example, the Count granting freedom to an older slave, when the slave can almost no longer work anymore, and a slave rebellion that most indefinitely could have happened.