Yves Montand, in perhaps his finest performance, brings weary humanity to the role of Carlos Diego, a “full-time revolutionary,” part of Spain’s dedicated underground anti-Franco network. The Spanish Civil War, which replaced Spain’s democracy with fascism, ended a quarter-century ago.
It is a life of constant danger in a “landscape of self-exile.” Crossing the border between Spain and France, Diego is stopped by the police. Juan, who is in Barcelona for a few days more, must be warned against going to Madrid lest he be caught in the current series of raids. Comradery—political solidarity—contributes more to Diego’s existence now than political hope. But it is comradery on the run—rather than extended times together, bits and pieces of shared time: time fractured by political history.
”Once again you cross the border in the early morning light”: Jorge Semprun’s splendid script brings out the poetry in Diego’s soul and the fear in his heart. Alain Resnais’s superlative filmmaking integrates tracking shots—moments of transport and flight—and static shots, the nuts-and-bolts of meetings and strategy sessions. A night with Marianne (Ingrid Thulin, marvelous) matters; no film shows better the capacity of tender intimacy to repair for a little a frayed life.
The film’s grayness is correlative to Diego’s gray existence, the pursuit of freedom for Spain that has long since passed from adventure to monotonous struggle, endless work. The title on one level is ironic; on another, it expresses anxiety. Perhaps the war really is over, fought and won by the wrong side, with no real possibility of shifting Spain’s political course.
”You’re fatter,” a comrade notes. Diego: “. . . the easy life.”
La guerre est finie was initially as overrated as Resnais’s Je t’aime, je t’aime (1968) was underrated. However, it is a fine film about an anonymous, committed, largely invisible life.
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