While at War is an intriguing and layered look into modern Spanish political and military history. Set in Salamanca in 1936, it covers the first few months of the Spanish Civil War.
Nationalist forces have taken to the streets of Salamanca, challenging the authority of the democratically elected Second Spanish Republic. The mayor is rounded up and restrictions placed on all civilians.
Celebrated writer Miguel de Unamuno (played by Karra Elejalde) has a comfortable life, teaching and challenging his friends – religious leader Atilano (played by Luis Zahera) and leftist Salvador (played by Carlos Serrano-Clark) – daily with political discussions. Unamumo supports the military coup, hoping it will resolve the prevailing chaos in Spain. For all his wisdom and experience, Unamuno doesn’t believe his country is under imminent threat. His friends don’t share his views.
When Atilano disappears, believed arrested, Unamuno is slow to react, reassuring Atilano’s wife that he will return in a few days. Unamuno then loses his position as dean of the University of Salamanca, but is shortly reinstated by the Nationalist party, for motives that become clear in time.
At Nationalist party headquarters, General Francisco Franco (played by Santi Prego) is unanimously voted in as Commander in Chief, yet appears reluctant. Joined and defended by a flamboyant General Astray (played by Eduard Fernández), Franco suggests the vote is ‘a false step’. Yet he transfers his headquarters to Salamanca and adds more troops to the uprising.
When next, Unamuno’s friend Salvador is bundled into a car and also spirited away, he begins to reconsider his principles, hoping he can exert his influence to bring reason before it’s too late.
While at War is centrepiece of the 2021 Moro Spanish Film Festival and is showing this coming week at Palace James Street and Palace Barracks cinemas. Check your local guides for screening times.
About While at War
Length: 107 mins
Language: Spanish with English subtitles
Directed by Alejandro Amenabar
Stars Karra Elejalde, Nathalie Poza, Eduard Fernández, Santi Prego, Luis Zahera, Carlos Serrano-Clark