July 18, 1936. Salamanca, Castilla and León (center to Spain). The Spanish army declares the state of war in the city, hoping to extend it to the rest of Spain and improve the unstable situation in the country after the proclamation of the Second Republic five years ago. An aging Miguel de Unamuno, not only writer and academic teacher but one of the most recognized intellectuals in Spain, disappointed with the Republic that publicly he helped to create, supports the new revolt in the hope to clean the country of the undesirable elements for desperation of his close friends teacher Salvador and priest Atilano, creating too many problems in his house where Miguel lives with his daughters María and Felisa, his housemaid Aurelia and his grandson Miguelín. At the same time that Salamanca's mayor Casto Prieto is arrested without cause apparent and his wife Ana asks help Miguel de Unamuno, the Joint Chiefs of Staff meet to decide the strategy to take the power, where the merciless one-eyed, ...Written by
An important part of the movie is set in the town of Salamanca, being the Main or Major Square (Plaza Mayor) widely relevant. It was actually shot in that very square, although the vegetation shown had to be added as in the moment of shooting the square had none. See more »
Despite the high precision with which some key moments in this film are traced, such as the fact that Unamuno used the letter from the widow of the Protestant pastor Atilano Coco to write the draft of his speech, it is not true that Millán Astray bellowed "España Una, Grande, Libre" (Spain One, Great and Free) after the writer's harangue, since this nationalist phrase was not yet pronounced at state events, only at those held by the Falange. He did shout instead patriotic proclamations. See more »
The Spanish Civil War was one of the first intensely publicized armed conflicts, and it inspired numerous fictional and fictional stories, some of them written and published even during the events, between 1936 and 1939. 'While at War' (the title in Spanish is 'Mientras dure la guerra'), the film by director Alejandro Amenábar, made eight decades later, brings to screen the figure of writer, linguist and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, perhaps the most famous Spanish intellectual of that period, and his attitude towards the events related to the outbreak of civil war. It is a biographical and historical film with many qualities. It is also a movie of actuality. Perhaps the most surprising aspect for the spectators is the fact that even today the controversies and ideas raised by the film seem to be contemporary, despite its historical theme. When is the activism that favors 'order' slipping in dictatorship? What is the role of the intellectuals and when does political engagement become inevitable? Does silence mean complicity?
The events described in the film happened in reality, which does not mean that they are not controversial to date. Their facts and interpretations also have a political resonance in contemporary Spain. Two lines of action take place in parallel. The first describes the beginning of the military rebellion led by the junta of generals and the taking of its leadership by Franco on the way to the absolute power that he would hold in Spain until 1975. A redefinition of the aims of the rebellion takes place - from 'restoring order' to an absolutist ideology that combines a return to monarchy, the supremacy of Catholicism and a nationalism with fanatical tendencies, including the cult of death. The second parallel theme relates to the ideological path of Unamuno, from a moderate support of the junta combined with the escapist avoidance of the political engagement at the beginning, to the clarification of his own conscience and the courageous taking of a position in defense of the diversity of ideas and religious freedom, against fanaticism and extremism.
The rendition of historical facts and the atmosphere of the time are performed in a professional and clear manner. The script fails to avoid a few common places, such as a few melodramatic flash-backs and the family scenes related to Unamuno, but most of the time expressively refer to the historical characters of the time. Karra Elejalde creates a human and complex Miguel de Unamuno, dignified but subject to pressures, who, having reached the old age and struggling with his own tendency for balance and compromise and with his born-in intellectual ambivalence, finally manages to gather the physical and intellectual forces to take attitude on the just side of history. Santi Prego not only physically looks exactly like we know Franco from the history books and filmed journals of the time, but also creates a psychological profile of this historical figure in which intellectual mediocrity meets the political talent sustained by opportunism and unscrupulousness. Eduard Fernández plays the role of the other general, Millan Astray, a kind of Spanish Goebbels or Beria, the ideologue of the ascending dictatorship, a far more sinister character because of his fanaticism and inciting of the violence of the fascinated masses. Temporarily the generals will defeat and silence the philosopher. In the perspective of history, however, the philosopher is the one who wins.
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