Spanish Film Festival
Showing now at Palace Nova Cinema
(Reviewed by John Glennie)
A powerful portrayal of the start of the Spanish coup when Nationalist troops seized control of Salamanca in July 1936 and arrested the city’s mayor. Martial law was imposed immediately but their famous author Miguel de Unamuno (Karra Elejalde) summons his two close friends Atilano Coco Martin (Luis Zahera) and Salvador Vila Hernandez ((Carlos Serrano-Clark) in defiance of the orders.
However Unamuno attends an interview where he publicly supports the coup and the junta soon reinstate him as dean of the university. Meanwhile in Spanish Morocco, a German delegation puts pressure on the junta to nominate a leader or lose support from the Germans.
The movie shows the intensity of the internal conflicts both within the military junta and between Unamuno and his friends Atilano and Salvador – after heated arguments with both of them at different times, both his friends are arrested. Many Socialists and opposers of the coup are arrested and murdered by the military, including the mayor.
When voting for a leader we learn how General Francisco Franco (Santi Prego – who has a remarkable resemblance to Franco) comes into power. Supposedly he is only to hold position as commander-in-chief “while at war” – though those last few words were omitted from the final document. Unamuno is held in high regard by Franco and his wife and he visits them to try and convince them, unsuccessfully, to release his friends.
General Millan-Astray later visits Unamuno to advise him that he will be taking Franco’s place at a Nationalist meeting at the university and that Franco requested Unamuno to attend. Vowing not to speak, he soon changes his mind and criticises the Nationalists which backfires on him.
While At War portrays the brutality of civil war very well and gives us an insight into General Franco’s eventual rise to power cementing his reign as a dictator for nearly 40 years. It is definitely worth seeing! My main issue is that subtitles are usually in white text and, when you get a light background, can be extremely difficult to read – just wish subtitles can be put on a dark ribbon so that they are readable on all backgrounds.