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Laramie Movie Scope:
Soldiers of Salamina (Soldados de Salamina)

In war, there are no heroes

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 4, 2005 -- The Spanish Civil War, which happened just prior to World War II, has been the subject of numerous books and movies over the years, the most famous of which are the works of Earnest Hemingway. In the past, the movies, and most books, took sides. The first movie not to take sides is “Soldados de Salamina,” (Soldiers of Salamina). In this story, there are no heroes, only victims. It is a poignant story of loss, emotional withdrawal and, finally of getting on with life.

Lola (played by Ariadna Gil of “Belle epoque”) is an author, teacher and journalist, whose life is on hold. She reluctantly writes a story about the civil war and receives a letter from a reader that sparks her curiosity about a historical incident in which a famed poet, who would later become an important figure in Franco's fascist government, escaped a massacre in which prisoners of war were executed. Hiding in the woods, the poet was spared when a rebel soldier assigned to find him decided to let him go. Lola becomes obsessed with finding that rebel soldier. She wants to know why he spared the poet's life and what he was thinking when he did it.

She reads a number of books written by soldiers and prisoners who were in the area of the massacre. She interviews survivors and starts to learn more about the infamous incident. An essay from one of her students reveals the name of the man who could be that mysterious soldier who spared the life of the poet. She tries to track this man down. Meanwhile, Lola's personal life is in disarray. She meets a young woman and a young man who both want romantic relationships with her, but she withdraws from both offers. She is finally convinced that she needs to get over her failed romance and get on with her life. Eventually, she discovers that Spain needs to get over its obsession with the civil war, stop taking sides, and get on with its own destiny.

The climax of the story is Lola's meeting with a Spanish Civil War veteran. The veteran tells Lola that her search for heroes in the civil war is a waste of time. In a moving speech, he tells her that the important thing about the war was that it stole his youth and it stole the lives of his childhood friends. He said that all his friends from his native village who went to war with him were killed. He alone remembers them and mourns their loss. As for the war, and his exploits in it, he doesn't want to talk about those things. It is better, he says, to simply live one's life and enjoy it. This is something that Lola needed to hear, even though a friend of hers had told her the same thing. She had shut herself off from her own feelings and was in full retreat from life. At the end of the film, it seems she is ready to begin life anew.

The lovely Ariadna Gil, whose expressive face conveys a myriad of emotions, dominates the film, and gives a great performance. Director David Trueba (“La Buena Vida”) effectively uses historical film footage, interspersed with flashbacks, to illustrate the history behind the story. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2005 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)