John Huston’s (1906–1987) legendary 1954 film adaptation of the novel Moby Dick came to cinemas in postrevolutionary Cuba in the late 1960s. Antonio Reboiro (b. 1935) condensed the plot into a luminous image that recounts not the horrors but rather interprets Hermann Melville’s (1819–1891) novel in a completely different way.
After the revolution of 1959, the Cuban poster took on a radically new appearance that was directly related to the country’s political transformation. Walls on the Caribbean island, formerly plastered with commercial posters and banal election propaganda, were now densely hung with colorful, sensual posters. This movie poster, sponsored by the Cuban film institute ICAIC, represented the most consistent development of the new aesthetic. Liberated from the pressures of creating the basis for the film’s commercial success with the poster, designers were able to exercise complete artistic freedom, capturing their immediate impressions of the film in associative images. This also involved appropriating international avant-garde movements, as is evident from Antonio Reboiro’s poster. Pop Art and the psychedelic poster with its ornamental lettering were the inspiration here. The bold, saturated colors of the screen print further reinforce the poster’s effect. Instead of depicting the film’s content, the Cuban designers managed to condense its subject into a symbol that invariably included their own interpretation. Captain Ahab’s mission to take revenge on Moby Dick for destroying his leg fails miserably. Other posters for Melville’s novel center on the menace of the whale and portray Captain Ahab as a victim. With Reboiro, though, the forces of nature—symbolized by the glaring sun, the stormy sea, and the huge whale fin—triumph over the human obsession to try to master them. (Bettina Richter)