Thursday, January 19, 2023


 Author Javier Ramos Altamira


El Campello (Alicante)


Received on September 9, 2022

Accepted on November 29, 2022


Thus, in its Preliminary Title, first article, the following is stated:

"First article

1. The object of this Law is the protection, enhancement and transmission to future generations of the Spanish Historical Heritage.

2. The Spanish Historical Heritage includes buildings and movable objects of artistic, historical, paleontological, archaeological, ethnographic, scientific or technical interest. Documentary and bibliographical heritage, archaeological sites and zones, as well as natural sites, gardens and parks that have artistic, historical or anthropological value are also part of it. Likewise, the assets that make up the Intangible Cultural Heritage are part of the Spanish Historical Heritage, in accordance with the provisions of its special legislation.

3. The most relevant assets of the Spanish Historical Heritage must be inventoried or declared of cultural interest in the terms provided in this Law".

According to this article, in order to legally preserve film sets and consider them part of the Spanish cultural heritage, they must be considered real estate and declared of cultural interest. This declaration supposes for the cultural asset, to be protected, restored and valued for future generations. But: can an old movie set be considered real estate?

To answer this question, we must go back to the Spanish Historical Heritage Law, in which Title II (On real estate), article 14, states:

"Article fourteen

1. For the purposes of this Law, in addition to those listed in article 334 of the Civil Code, any elements that can be considered consubstantial with the buildings and are part of them or their decoration, or have formed it, are considered real estate. , although in the case of being able to be separated they constitute a perfect whole of easy application to other constructions or to uses other than their original one, whatever the material of which they are formed and although their separation does not visibly harm the historical or artistic merit of the property to which that are attached

2. The real estate integrated into the Spanish Historical Heritage can be declared Monuments, Gardens, Ensembles and Historical Sites, as well as Archaeological Zones, all of them as Assets of Cultural Interest".

As we can see, in the first paragraph of this article 14 reference is made to article 334 of the Civil Code (which has been in force since no less than the year 1889), in whose first point it is said:

"The following are real estate: 1. The land, buildings, roads and constructions of all kinds attached to the ground[...]".

In other words, any construction carried out on the ground is immovable property and, therefore, can be considered worthy of protection. And certainly, film sets are constructions made on the ground. But, to protect them, according to the aforementioned Historical Heritage Law, the place must be declared within one of the five categories established in point 2 of article fourteen and described in article fifteen. The categories are the following: Monument, Historical Garden, Historical Complex, Historical Site or Archaeological Zone.

Film sets, although they do not fit perfectly into any of these categories, taking into account the definitions that are offered, perhaps in a very sui generis way, could indeed be included in three of them. That is, they could be declared a Monument, a Historic Site, or even an Archaeological Zone. To verify this, we are going to see, below, the definitions of these three categories given in article 15 of the aforementioned law: "Monuments are those immovable assets that constitute architectural or engineering achievements, or works of colossal sculpture as long as they have historical interest, artistic, scientific or social".

According to this definition, a cinematographic set could perfectly be considered as a Monument, since, on many occasions, they are architectural constructions that may have historical or artistic importance, due to the category of the films that have been filmed there. It is true that most of the time they are constructions made with flimsy and not very durable materials. But it is also true that, for many shoots, parts of buildings or other structures have been erected, or even entire buildings, the construction of which requires architectural knowledge.

Focusing on the western, there are two examples that could fit this definition. One would be the city of Flagstone in Granada and another, the fortress built for the film El Cóndor (John Guillermin, 1970) in Tabernas (Almería).

In the first case, we have a set that was built for the production Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968), with the intention of representing the emerging city of Flagstone, the place where Jill (Claudia Cardinale) arrives, to later address to his family farm. Many buildings of this decoration were made of brick, several parts of which are still preserved today. Some walls would be reused in later years for the construction of modern buildings. But others remain standing, in the middle of the plain.

The other case is from the El Cóndor fortress. It is a gigantic building of several hundred square meters, made up of a towered wall and several buildings, which would be used in several more films such as A Reason to Live, a Reason to Die (Tonino Valerii, 1970), March or Die (Dick Richards, 1977) or Conan, the Barbarian (John Milius, 1982). Unfortunately, this spectacular decoration has been deteriorating over the years and fewer and fewer remains are left standing.

[Remains of the El Cóndor fortress in Almería, © Photo of the author.]

[Reprinted by permission of Javier Ramos Altamira]

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