“Cuentame Como Paso” (“Tell Me How it Happened”) by Miguel Angel Bernardeau (on PBS, Seattle/WA, Spanish language channel) is a TV series about the life of a Middle class Spanish family at the end of 60s to late 70s (originally a TV series first broadcasted by the Spanish Public TV since 2000). The director is interested to underline the national features of the characters’ life and at the same time its universal features, which makes the film an interesting socio-psychological review of morals, worries and joys of various national groups in Europe, US and Canada in the second part of the 20th century.

In front of curiosity of viewers the father of the family Antonio (Imanol Arias) learns how to handle his own and his family’s (including his two sons and daughter) problems. As many men in general, Antonio has a lot of unconscious narcissism and authoritarianism and, especially with his wife Mercedes (Anna Duato) – can sometimes indulge in childlike capriciousness. But with each new episode he becomes less immature and later more and more mature and responsible human being. We also see how his wife gradually transforms from a constantly worrying and a shy housewife into a strong personality able to be a psychological support to her husband and emotional to her children. We all know that “love” is not enough to maintain a successful family life. It’s necessary to have a certain talent for compassion, empathy and self-restrain. We see how the children of the family raised in consumer culture and made addicted to (mass-cultural) entertainment develop, with the help of the adults of the family including the grandmother, a taste for reality. Their personalities flower because of Antonio and Mercedes’ accent on seriousness and realism in perception of life, in spite of the dogmatic atmosphere at school and of the fact that Franco was still in office. When in later episodes Franco was reaching the end of his life we see in Spain intense development of cosmetic and fashion industries and a burgeoning of small retail to distract people from political interests and activities – Franco’s numerous cohorts were worrying about their future without their leader. Our exemplary family and people we see on the street started to dress brightly and spend more money on clothing and appearance.

We learn from the film that even the superstitions stimulated by Catholicism and supported by Franco government are similar with that of the other countries, even those, like Russia of the Soviet period, where instead of religious dogmatism, the dogmatic Communist ideology was creating in people similar reactions (like fear of free speech, philistine proclivity for gossiping and sexual prejudices meeting the resistance of some from the young generation). For example, when the father Antonio becomes too passionate in his indignation about his daughter’s mini-skirt, she delicately hints that it’s time for him to go to the bedroom with her mother, and, though inflamed by daughter’s impudence he… follows her advice (mother and daughter, in silent solidarity exchanged the winks from across the room).

The film widely uses imaginary footages when the heroes imagine something happening, or dreaming while sleeping, or when the director comments about funny situations while making a resume of the historical events.

Here there are several examples –

The head of the family has complicated relations with his boss, a rather impulsive and a self-indulgent man combining political progressivism with conservatism in economic views and bossism in social behavior. Many times humiliated by this person in spite of their generally friendly relationship, Antonio imagines his boss in a worker’s greasy uniform belittled by an exaggeratedly huge printing press (one of the boss’ business interests) which he himself is trying to fix as if he is a just worker. While imagining this Antonio cannot stop himself from laughter.

The younger son (approximately age twelve) has a dream that he is walking through petroleum extracting field and gets sprinkled by this black oily staff and enjoying that petroleum covers his face, head and. This footage is a parody on the propaganda of fossil fuel in Europe of early seventies. We cannot even imagine this kind of parody in American films.

The same boy sneaks into the bathroom because only there he can find a hiding place. But this time, while sitting in the dry bathtub isolated from the world by shower curtain, he to his horror hears that somebody entering the bathroom. It was his grandmother who, when she heard that somebody is in the bathtub, became so frightened that she grabs the scissors and started hysterically strike the curtain. This piece is a sharp parody not only on religious Puritanism, but on people’s simpleminded reaction on cinematic clichés (here a famous scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s horror film) which penetrate human unconscious and make people act “madly”.

The film offers to viewers a lot of little semantic gifts like these ones.