By Carter B. Horsley
This film, whose
title means "The War Is Over," is about a cautious,
anti-Franco revolutionary who is based in Paris but makes forays
into Spain. He is a mature man of considerable experience and
As the movie begins, he
and a companion are pulled over at a border checkpoint for interrogation.
The revolutionary, who is known as either Carlos or Diego and
is played by Yves Montand, has someone else's legitimate passport
into which his photograph has been put and when the interrogator,
played by Michel Piccoli, checks out his home telephone a woman
confirms his story to the revolutionary's great relief and incredulity.
After learning that many
of his revolutionary colleagues have been arrested, Montaud returns
to Paris to warn his other colleagues and also to return the passport
to its owner who was unaware that it had been taken and to check
out why the woman who answered the phone covered up for him.
The woman, played by Genevieve
Bujold, is the daughter of the owner of the passport, whose picture
Montand has had carefully put back in place in the passport, and
she is also an anti-Franco revolutionary but one who believes
that more dramatic and violent acts of terrorism are needed than
the general strikes called for by the man's group. This was Bujold's
first major film and she is exquisitely lovely and the perfect
French gamine and it is not surprisingly that the man, who is
much older and tells her his name is Domingo, has an affair with
checks in with his Parisian cohorts, he learns that one of his
old allies who has set out for Spain is in great danger of being
trapped and arrested and he decides that he must try to stop him.
It is clear from the meeting that Carlos/Diego is not the leader
of this revolutionary group, and there is friction in the group
as some accuse him of having jeopardized their colleagues.
He returns to his home where
he is warmly greeted by his lover, played by Ingrid Thulin, who
wants to have his baby. After getting rid of some visiting friends,
they make love. Both love-making scenes are exquisitely photographed
and are full of great sensuality and passion and a little nudity.
As he prepares to go back
towards Spain and head off his colleague from a trap, he sees
a woman walking by. He sees a similar, but different, woman walking
by and another and another. Are his eyes playing tricks? Is he
remembering past lovers? It happens quickly and the movie's director,
Alain Resnais, is best known for his provocative films such as
"Hiroshima Mon Amour" (1959) and "Last Year at
Marienbad" (1966) (see The City Review
article) that are about memory, provides no clues.
The screenplay by Jorge
Semprún gives a very fine sense of the common fears of
those involved in clandestine operations and the fine photography
by Sacha Vierny provides an excellent feel for Paris.
Although the movie has some
flashbacks and some enigmatic sections in which future events
are shown and/or imagined, this is one of Resnais's more accessible
and linear works. It has great tension and the acting is superb.
Montand, who was one of France's most famous singers, would play
another revolutionary in "Z," a 1969 film by director
Costa-Gavras that won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.
In "La Guerre Est Finie,"
the protagonist returns to Spain to try to save his comrade and
the woman played by Thulin learns that he may be entering a trap
and chases after him. The movie ends with him driving towards
Spain and her following him.
The movie is suspenseful,
taut and superbly paced and edited. Danger abounds. Passion abounds.
The film is extremely sophisticated. The protagonist's idealism
and dedication to his cause isolates him from his lovers and he
struggles with his patriotism and exile. He is a man of principle
and Montaud's performance is wonderful, ranging from maudlin to
enraged, bemused to enraptured, resolute to desperate.
The settings are not glamorous
but the black-and-white photography and tracking shots make otherwise
drab scenes fascinating and fluid.
Low-key, but brilliant,
"La Guerre Est Finie" captures the fervor of political
outrage and offense but avoids the clichés of showing brutality
and oppression and concentrates on the operative's fearsome world.
While not as spectacular as "The Battle of Algiers"
(see The City Review article), or
as colorful as "Z," it captures much of the same visual
and intellectual poetry of "Odd Man Out" and is immensely
Injustices are not spelled
out, but very deeply felt. The movie makes no pretense to portray
the Franco regime as other than evil, although the interrogator's
role is quite fascinating especially as portrayed by Piccoli,
who would become a major French leading man of the movies. He
is intelligent and intimidating, but wily interesting.
Thulin, one of director
Ingmar Bergman's great stars, is luminous in her role as Montaud's
consort and the nuances of her performance are bittersweet and
one of the finest revelations of the depths and complexities of
mature love in film history.
Montand feels that his comrades
are naïve in believing that the time was ripe for a revolution
and in his gut sensed that much more work needed to be accomplished.
That his gut had been wrenched many times in the past in no way
diminished his courage and his honor, his despair and frustrations,
his ability to love not just individuals but also a nationality.
Montaud's stature, his bearing, his visage, his persona reek with
the authority of experience, passion, and determination and these
qualities are what raise the film up to a very high level.
The title of the movie is
ambigous. Which war is over? That against the Franco regime, or
just Montaud's efforts? Resnais shows considerable restraint and
political diatribes are held in check. Unlike "The Battle
of Algiers" or "Z" that set out to sensationalize
and inflame and convert, "La Guerre Est Finie" is a
psychological drama that is astonishingly devoid of demonizing,
a moral tale of romance, salvation, dreams, hope and the independent
spirit of man and the power of love.