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Juan David Restrepo
Spain in the 1930s is the place to be for a man of action like Robert Jordan. There is a civil war going on and Jordan who has joined up on the side that appeals most to idealists of that era -- like Ernest Hemingway and his friends -- has been given a high-risk assignment up in the mountains. He awaits the right time to blow up a bridge in a cave. Pilar, who is in charge there, has an ability to foretell the future. And so that night she encourages Maria, a young girl ravaged by enemy soldiers, to join Jordan who has decided to spend the night under the stars.Written by
Dale O'Connor <email@example.com>
Based in Ernest Hemingway's world famous bestseller, this film is one of those classical melodramas, even though not in a Douglas Sirk style and maybe of quite another matter. In the book, Hemingway worked up his own experiences in the Spanish Civil War of the 30s - the film was shot in the middle of World War II - and that is why certain things are plain "clear". Of course, the whole plot of the film takes place solely within the lines of the Republican forces. Of course, it takes an unequivocal stand against Franco's fascism and its followers. Of course, the male lead, an expert for explosives, is a sincere American who stands on the right side. But without any cynicism, For Whom the Bell Tolls is in an utterly positive sense straight, straightforward, "clear", or however you want to word it.
Sam Wood shaped the story through three strands: the love between María (Ingrid Bergman) and Robert (Gary Cooper), the preparations of a detonation and the conflict in the group with Pablo (Akim Tamiroff). Here, Wood presents a set of excellent characters. Pablo, brilliantly played by Tamiroff, as the most enigmatic of the ensemble, does not only bring trouble into the group, but also impersonates a man who is torn between friendship/solidarity and personal interest. Robert is a sober, prudential, reflecting man who knows what he wants, but sees danger in his love for María. He is not an ignorant macho, but someone who carefully listens, evaluates and then decides. And then there is Pilar, played by Katina Paxinou, this rough, angular, active woman with heart, a heart which is not only on the right place, but also has a deep feeling for what is going wrong in her country and what danger is coming up for her and her people if Franco might win the war. It seems as if Wood adapted a real and important protagonist of the Civil War with the character of Pilar: the Communist leader Dolores Ibarruri aka "La Pasionaria".
With this variety of human patterns, Wood gives us a cross-section through a small, "spatially limited" civil society where the story line can be interpreted in context to the events in 1943 in Europe. Hitler and his allies are at the high peak of their conquest- and extermination campaigns. In this respect, the film asks the question, how democracy is going to work after the terror is defeated, taking also those into account who are erratic and cowardly like Pablo. And it asks the question for consideration between betrayal and solidarity, love and necessity.
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