Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Cinema....Las Trece Rosas

This is one of the Spanish films that has created the most expectation so far this year, with its true story of 13 young women who were executed by Franco’s troops in the aftermath of the fall of Madrid. The film, directed by Emilio Martínez Lázaro, holds few surprises as we all know what is going to happen in the end. That doesn’t necessarily need to be a problem for a film, the way in which a story is told can bring just as much as any surprises in the plot.

The first part of the film portrays the efforts of the new rulers of the capital setting out to hunt down anyone who opposes them, and to intimidate the rest into passive obedience to the new order. Casual brutality is used by the police to force those detained to betray others. None of the 13 women had done anything much more significant than help friends or toss a handful of leaflets at a crowd queuing for bread, and several of them were minors at the time of their execution. The period is very carefully recreated, together with some skilful disguising of well known Madrid landmarks to hide the changes of the last 60 years.

The second half of the story deals with the imprisonment of the accused and the farcical kangaroo court military tribunal which hands out death sentences at the drop of a hat. Perhaps it is the sheer difficulty of portraying so many principal characters, but for me the film lacks something to really engage the spectator, despite the emotional pull of the finale. I ended up not being really sure exactly who was who and where they fitted into it all, and at times it doesn't come across as very solid or convincing in its presentation of the events. What you get in the end is a very watchable film, but not quite the treat we were led to expect.

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