Tuesday, October 17, 2006


This week’s film has been Salvador, based on a true story about Salvador Puig Antich, an anti-Franco militant executed at the age of 25 after being accused of murdering a police officer during an operation to arrest him. Puig Antich joined a small anarchist organisation, the MIL (The Iberian Liberation Movement), and participated in several bank robberies, the proceeds of which were intended to help those involved in the struggle against the regime. Not surprisingly they attracted the attention of Franco’s ample security apparatus and the crackdown gradually took most members of the group out of circulation, Puig Antich being arrested as a result of a trap set by the police after forcing another arrested member of the MIL to collaborate.

In the end the film concentrates much more on the time he spent in prison awaiting execution, than on his life up the point of his arrest. The tension of the process of fruitless appeals against the death sentence is well portrayed, as is the claustrophobic atmosphere of the prison. The killing by ETA of Prime Minister Carrero Blanco makes any hope of a lighter sentence virtually disappear as the regime seeks revenge. In this film there is no mystery or anything to give away about the ending, the execution is carried out by the garrotte, a glorious example of medieval engineering which was still being put to use in 1974.

The main character in the this film, directed by Manuel Huerga, is played by Daniel Brühl – well known for his role in the film Goodbye Lenin. Brühl has a family connection to Spain, and he certainly speaks the language well – although much of the dialogue in the film is in Catalan, and I won’t try to judge anyone’s accent in that language. The film also features several actors who are well known to those familiar with Spanish cinema – Leonor Watling, Ingrid Rubio, Tristán Ulloa and Leonardo Sbaraglia. Ulloa particularly impresses in the role of the lawyer committed to a concept of justice that is never likely to be realised in the context of the dictatorship.

The film has been accused of misrepresenting the reality both of Salvador Puig Antich, and of the struggle against the dictatorship which led to his death. I can see some justification of the criticism, in that the film tells us very little about the political context in which the events took place. Perhaps because of this lack of background, Puig Antich as portrayed in the film comes across more as a bank robber than as a political activist. Despite these reservations, it is still a moving and intense film, well worth the price of admission. Salvador was one of the films unsuccessfully competing with Almodóvar’s Volver to be the Spanish nomination for the foreign language Oscar this year.

1 comment:

Nick said...

Cheers for the review - you've inspired me to go and see it. I thought at first this was a re-release of Salvador (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091886/)
by Oliver Stone which is another great political film.