Las 13 rosas (The 13 Roses) (2007)
Director: Emilio Martínez Lázaro.
Starring: Pilar López de Ayala (Blanca), Verónica Sánchez (Julia), Gabriella Pession (Adelina), Marta Etura (Virtudes), Nadia de Santiago (Carmen), Teresa Hurtado de Ory (Victoria), Bárbara Lennie (Dionisia), Alba Alonso (Ana), Celia Pastor (Martina), Silvia Mir (Carmen B.), Sara Martín (Pilar), María Cotiello (Elena), Miren Ibarguren (Joaquina), Carmen Cabrera (Luisa), Félix Gómez (Perico).
republican women try to keep their republican ideal in the aftermath of Franco's victory
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Two women, Carmen and Virtudes, speak to a small crowd of people saying that the war is spreading throughout Europe and the Europeans will join the Spanish republic in defeating international fascism. A woman in the crowd doubts that the European powers are going to come to the rescue of Spain.. As they speak, a column of defeated republican soldiers pass behind them. A woman says that the moros (literally the Moors) are coming. The crowd starts dispersing. The two women speakers hop on the back of a truck to go with the republicans. There are civilian refugees mixed in with the column.
Julia is helping to feed young and old citizens. A republican soldier, Teo, comes in and Julia goes over to him and they hug. Adelina comes around the corner with more food, but puts it down on the table immediately, when she sees Teo. They hug each other. Teo pulls down a box labeled the Aida Lafuente Society off the shelf. Inside are cards with women's photos on them and containing basic information about them. Teo says that this information must be destroyed. Julia asks if there is any news from the front and Teo answers: "What front?" He says the men all ran away like frightened chickens.
An air-raid siren goes off and Julia shouts that everyone must go to the shelter. Bombers fly over the town, but rather than dropping bombs, the fascists drop small packages of bread. The people come out of the shelter and start grabbing the packages of bread and eating the bread. Adelina says don't eat the fascist bread because the radio says it was poisoned. Everyone ignores her, so she picks up a package and eats some fascist bread.
In a cafe a local band plays a song and the singer/violinist Enrique Garcia sings the song in French. Teo, Julia and Adelina listen to the music. Also there is a young woman, Blanca Garcia, who sings along with the song. Teo and the women think about organizing a underground group but they have little if any experience at that. The singer stops singing and another man starts talking to the music. He asks who knows what will happen in the difficult days that are about to come? So they should bid each other goodbye because they may not see each other again.
A bomb lands on the cafe and explodes. People rush under the tables to avoid being hit by falling rafters and pieces of wood. Under one long table Blanca Garcia introduces herself and her son Quique to Julia and Adelina. The two women introduces themselves to Blanca and Quique.
The fascist column is walking toward Madrid. Two boys are out looking for food when they spot an unexploded artillery shell. One boy throws rocks at it and calls the other boy a chicken for not tossing rocks at the shell. So the "chicken" picks up a large piece of rock and is going to throw it directly onto the shell when they hear the singing and marching of the soldiers coming their way. The boys rush over to them and work their way to the back of the column. There a fellow gives them two cans of food. As the column passes by the citizens by the side of the road, the citizens give the fascist salute. In the city fascist troops start pouring in. Even a group of nuns gives the fascist salute.
Carmen tells her friend Virtudes that she's a nobody and won't be in any danger. But her friend is known among the republicans and she may have trouble. Virtudes says that she will get a job as a servant in a Falangist home where she can overhear fascist news and conversations. The fascists go through the crowd making sure that everyone is giving the fascist salute. Carmen and Virtudes have to salute or be arrested. So they salute. The fascists hit an old man in the stomach because he only knows a few of the words to the fascist song. Under her breath, Virtudes says: "Bastards!"
Quique rests in bed and his mother Blanca comes over and gives him several kisses. Dad (Enrique Garcia) comes in (he is the lead singer in the band who sang to the people in the cafe). He says he can't find his violin.
Outside a sergeant reads a bulletin: "Generalissimo Franco's Headquarters to all barracks of the Civil Guard (Guardia Civil): It is hereby mandated to be applied immediately the following order requiring you to report to all aforementioned offices in order to open relevant personal files for the cleansing of political responsibilities." A soldier named Romero asks for some clarification of the order. The sergeants says it means that the men are no longer members of the Civil Guard, nor are they soldiers.
Quique pulls out money from its hiding place in one of the bed posts. His parents realize that it's not that much money really. And dad worries about how much money bandmate Juan will need? (Juan was the band member who spoke about saying goodbye to the cafe audience.) Blanca says she will take some money to Juan because dad shouldn't be seen with Juan who was a member of the communist party and an important figure in the union.
The sergeant tells his daughter Adelina that he is sending her back to her village to be with her grandparents until all this confusion settles down. He says that he may be discharged, demoted or even put on trial. The authorities are critical of him because he did so little for their forces.
Julia works as a fare taker on the buses. Some of the passengers are rude to her because they know she is a red. A fascist soldier sticks up for her saying he knows this woman and, though she is a red, she is a good person. A little later he calls Julia beautiful and says she owes him a kiss.
Carmen gives her friend Virtudes, who is now a nanny, a small white ribbon to wear on her sweater. She says this way the republican women will recognize each other. Virtudes says she has not seen her boyfriend Valentin for a long time. Two men walk toward them and one of them is Valentin and the other Mario. Valentin sits back to back on the bench on the other side of where Virtudes sits. They grab each other's right hand behind them. Virtudes says she loves Valentin. .
On the radio a government spokesmen tells the fascists that: "It is the duty of every Spaniard to report where they (the republicans) are hiding." The republicans are referred to as vermin In Juan's house, his sister-in-law tells his wife that Juan has to leave or else the whole household will be punished. Blanca knocks on the door and is told by Juan's wife that they don't know where Juan is. Blanca tells them that she is a friend, the wife of band member Enrique Garcia. The sister-in-law tells the wife to close the door on the visitor. Juan arrives and tells Blanca to come into the apartment.
Blanca hands an envelope of money to Juan and he says the amount is fine. Blanca urges him to leave Madrid because it is not safe here for him. His sister-in-law seconds the idea. Juan says that he will go when he is ready, but he is not going to be thrown out of his own apartment by his sister-in-law. But when the wife says he should go too, Juan grabs his things and leaves with Blanca. Before the two part, Juan asks Blanca to pawn his musical instrument. He says he will be staying at the home of Tomas. Blanca decides to give him some more money so he can keep his instrument. Juan takes the instrument, but then gives Blanca the instrument to give to her son. Blanca says that she will pawn it.
When Julia finishes her shift, the stranger that helped her on the bus the other day shows up. He says he's been waiting for her for two hours. She thanks him for helping her. But she still looks so sad. She says she and the other women just got fired from their jobs because they asked to get paid. She asks if he is from Basque Country (in the Pyrenees Mountains) and he says yes. He stops and gets a cigarette and Julia asks him where is hers? She's kidding him because she doesn't smoke. He says that's good because if she smoked, the people around her might just shave her hair off her head.
A woman stranger comes up to talk to Julia because of the white ribbon, but she immediately leaves when the Basque fellow approaches. He asks Julia to be careful or she will get into trouble. He adds that she really doesn't know how things are now and asks her again to please be careful. He breaks the mood by asking her if she wants to go to the movies? She smiles and they leave together. In the square a huge monument is being erected to honor Franco.
Teo knocks on an apartment door and a fascist officer opens the door. The young man has to get out of there as fast as he can. He says he is the nephew of Juana and came looking for her, but now he realizes that her apartment is on the next floor. He walks up the stairs and rings Aunt Juana's doorbell. Teo asks her about that fascist officer and Juana tell him that they are putting the soldiers into all the different apartment buildings. The aunt says neighbors have become informers and her nephew must get out of here immediately. She adds that if he should come back again, she will call the police on him herself.
Outside the apartment Teo realizes that the authorities have come for him. He runs up to the roof and starts roof hopping.
Teo has been caught and is taken to police headquarters. He sees another prisoner who is covered with blood and knows that he was beaten and/or tortured. Teo is taken to a torture room where a huge man will be socking him around with a boxing glove on his right hand. The chief of police Captain Fontenla comes in to question Teo. Teo knows the captain, but the huge fellow, Gaspar, hits him with his right hand direct to Teo's face knocking him across the room.
One of the women thinks that four women are going to hurt Julia and her friends. They tell her to get rid of her red pamphlets as she promised. Julia takes the pamphlets and throws them into the bathing tub. She is going to burn them when someone says that a soldier is outside wanting to speak with Julia. Julia looks out the window and says that it's just Perico. He has brought the family a box of food, which makes the women in the house feel very grateful. Perico says that the highlight of the gifts is movie ticket. They're going to go to the movies. Julia says she not in the mood, but mother and one of the sisters watching the unloading of all the goodies tell her to go. Julia goes into her room and closes the door. She is all smiles. She tells her friend inside to sew her buttons on her blouse up for her.
As they go down the stairs, because of his brown uniform Julia says to Perico: "Carlist militia one day, a soldier the next." Perico kisses her. At the movies they hold hands. A newsreel shows Franco meeting with representatives of Hitler. It is said that Germany is their beloved ally. As Franco speaks to the nation, Perico fondles Julia's breast through her shirt. He tries to get the buttons unbuttoned but realizes that they have been sewn shut. At the end of the newsreel everyone has to stand up and give the fascist salute. Perico has to help Julia give the salute.
When they get back to the apartment building, the couple smooches for awhile. Julia has to chase him out. Carmen has seen Julia with the captain soldier and she doesn't like it. She gives Julia some disapproving looks. Julia says he's not military, he's her boyfriend. Carmen says that's why Julia hasn't been coming to their meetings. She adds: "We thought something had happened to you." Julia tells her that she lost her job, things are very bad at home and her getting arrested would be a disaster for her and her family. She even tells Carmen she should stop going to the meetings. What possible progress can come out of their meetings?
Teo is released from police headquarters. Now he carries a pistol with him. He goes to the apartment of Valentin. Valentin welcomes him and the two meet with two other men. They have a mimeograph machine and can produce pamphlets. One of the sayings is: "Less Franco, More Bread". The two other men say pamphlets are okay, but what they really want are these. They both pull out a pistol from under some linens. Then Teo pulls out his pistol.
Wife and sister-in-law go to rat fink on Juan. In doing so, they also rat fink on Blanca Garcia.
Virtudes, Valentin's girlfriend, finds out where he is staying and goes to the apartment building. The landlady lets her in. She goes up and speaks with the young men. They tell her that their friends in prison need their help. But what the guys need is money and they are thinking of robbing a bank or a store. Virtudes tells Teo that the only thing they will accomplish with weapons is more reprisals from the fascists. Now she asks Valentin about it and he says that he told the guys to count him out. Virtudes get angry and starts to leave. Teo rushes after her and pushes her into a large bedroom with at least two beds. She gives him a cap she made for him. This makes Valentin happy. He tells Virtudes that everything will be over in Spain when the war starts.
Virtudes and Mario, the boy she is watching, pass by a Social Aid building where there are long lines of people asking for help. Julia and another woman pass by Virtudes pushing a baby carriage. Julia puts something into the baby carriage and Virtudes gives the other woman something from the baby carriage. In hiding are the police. The women start throwing leaflets into the air and then they run. The police rush in and panic scatters everyone waiting for social aid. The authorities catch one republican woman and one man. Carmen, Julia and another woman mix in with the fascist crowd listening to a band playing music. Two plains clothes policemen look through the crowd. They spot one of the women. Carmen and Julia get away.
The police now go to Valentin's apartment building. They grab the Cuban landlady and demand to know where the men Satur and Damian are? The landlady says that they have left. Meanwhile, the police rush up the stairs after the republicans. The policeman in charge bows his head and says: "They got away."
The police come to Julia's apartment building. The night watchmen lets them in. The police go up to Julia's apartment and ask for her. Her mother and sisters says she isn't here so they decide to take two of the women with them down to headquarters. Julia comes out of hiding from the wardrobe because she does not want her family punished for something Julia did.
The interrogator, the chief of police, has Julia disrobe. She starts crying as she takes off her brassiere and underwear. He then tells her she better start talking because he doesn't want to destroy that beautiful face and body. (some nudity). She won't talk so he twists her left nipple and tells her to tell him all about Adelina. When Julia says she doesn't know her, he burns her with a cigarette. And now he brings in Gaspar who hits her in the stomach and down goes Julia.
Adelina tells her date that she is leaving Madrid. Why? Her father called her and told her the police are going to question her. Can't her father get her out of it? No. He no longer is in the Civil Guard. She says her father always put duty before love. In fact, he never said I love you to her. So her date tells her that he loves her. They kiss. He says she can live in his village with his parents, who will simply love her. Adelina pulls away from him.
The next day Adelina's father is taking her somewhere via a bus. The date, Eutimio, from last evening tries to stop them from going, but Adelina walks around the fellow and gets on the bus with her father. As the bus pulls out, she runs to the back so she can see him as the bus pulls out.
The police search through the home of Blanca Garcia. They don't find anything, but they take her husband down to police headquarters.
Mother and sister bring food for Julia in jail. Mother asks a high-rank policemen if he would ask the chief of police to let them see Julia for five minutes. He just tells them that how do they know that the chief of police won't have them locked up too? Mother and sister leave. Dad brings Adelina to the police station and Julia's mother and sister are shocked to see Adelina there. Dad tells the police that they do remember that they promised to ask her only a few questions? They only say they will will just question her. They take her away. Dad sees the chief of police and tells him that they made a deal. The chief tells him he did what was his duty to do and now he will please leave the police station.
On a street car Carmen tells Teo that the authorities are swatting the organization members like flies. "It's like they know everything about us." As Teo talks, Carmen gets suspicious of him. She screams at him to let her go and she runs off the street car. Two agents follow her. She starts running, but runs into two policemen. She is taken to the station.
Carmen walks by and a friend calls out to her. Carmen does not turn around. The friend runs after her and she is grabbed by two agents. Carmen goes walking in the park. She tries to walk right by Virtudes and Mario, but Mario runs over to her and hugs her legs. Carmen says she doesn't know the woman with the boy, but again Mario gives her away by saying yes she does know Virtudes.
Blanca comes to give her husband clean clothes, but she has to go see the chief of police. He asks her if she knows Juan Canepa? Barely, she says. The chief says he has testimony that she gave Juan money. Didn't she know that Juan is a communist? He goes on to say he knows there was a plot to assassinate Franco and he wants Blanca to tell him all about it.
Virtudes has been roughed up and now she is very afraid when the door opens. Blanca is taken right past Virtudes. Adelina is tied to a chair. The chief of police brings down to the torture room a man accused of participating in the assassination plot. Gaspar knocks him around. The chief goes now to frighten Adelilna. He fondles her breasts through her shirt. Gaspar is really beating the hell out of the fellow, which makes Adelina even more scared. The chief tells Adelina that all she has to do is sign the statement. Then she will go home with him for the evening and she will be released in the morning.
Adelina watches as the beaten man grabs a light bulb and cuts his throat. They let Julia attend the funeral. She sees her mother and sister and asks about Perico. Mother only says that Perico couldn't make it. Perico watches from his hiding place behind a statue. He leaves with tears in his eyes. Julia and Blanca are put back in the police van. They are taken to a women's prison. The warden tells Blanca to take off her clothes. She gets to keep her bra, underwear and panties on. Blanca will be put in with the mothers. Nineteen-year old Julia will go elsewhere to be with the minors. .
Julia and Virtudes meet in the prison. They hug. Adelina comes over and hugs Julia. Julia winces and Adelina says they beat Julia. Julia is rattled a bit by the sounds of the firing squad which are active every night.
Carmen is now with the women. They keep their spirits high by sticking closely together. When the matron scolds them for having a little water fight at the large sink, they start throwing water on her. Every morning the women are all brought together in one place and counted. The prisoners then have to give the fascist salute and sing the fascist theme song. One morning Carmen slips out of the minors group and heads over to see Virtudes and four other of her colleagues. Virtudes and Carmen decide to do a tap dance. The other inmates watch and have a good laugh at the antics of the two dancers.
Adelina comes over to the group. She has mail for Dionisia. She gets a letter that tells her in a round-about way that her boyfriend is now in France and will be soon headed to Mexico.
Some of the women attend church. After the service is over, Blanca talks with the warden, whose name is also Carmen. Carmen knows what she is going to say and she admits that with so many inmates, there must be many incarceration mistakes that have been made. She tells her to trust in the Lord and he will help her. The warden is considering moving Blanca to where Blanca can use her piano playing skills or her sewing abilities.
The women receive visitors. Adelina gets a visit from her father. Julia gets a visit from one of her sisters. Virtudes learns from her mother that she lost her job and Virtudes says it's because of her being a red. They arrested Carmen's father and her mother went into hiding. Carmen learns the bad news from one of her relatives. Julia asks if they have seen Perico and her sister tells her no. Adelina and her father are the last to leave. The matron comes over to scold dad. He gives her some food to give to his Adelina. With the food is a note. The matron reads the note, but gives the food and the note to Adelina. The note says: "I love you." Adelina has a big smile on her face and says: "Me too. Very much."
Blanca plays the organ for church services. Once again it's the republican women who are giggling with each other. They release around ten very small mice in the church. Virtudes screams and soon the women are running away from the mice.
The republicans call the warden in to talk with her. She is very irritated by this and asks what was so important that she had to come all the way down here to see them. There are women all over the place. They say another child has died and one child a day dies because of hunger. If the children are not given milk to drink, they will stop singing the fascist theme song. The next morning the republicans refuse to join in the singing and refuse to give the fascist salute. The matrons force their right hands up, but as soon as the matrons leave, the hands goes down again. The warden now throws them into solitary confinement, but there the girls sing a song criticizing life in prison. A matron tells the warden that the women just won't shut up.
Two male republicans stop a car and then take the two policemen and one woman out and over to a large hole. There they kill their hostages.
The prison school teacher calls out the following names: Ana, Martina and Victoria. They are scheduled to go to court. They have to change into better clothes. Carmen goes up to the teacher and asks why? The teacher calls her stupid and says that Carmen is the lucky one.
In the back of a truck are other republican women. In all, there are 13 of them. Dionisia tells them that republicans killed a Civil Guard commander, his daughter and driver. She thinks they will ask for the death penalty for the republican women. Blanca says they always do this, but then a judge reduces the sentence. The women start changing items of clothing with each other in the belief that this will bring them good luck. The women look over the truck railing to take a look at Retiro Park.
When the women are taken off the truck Quique runs over to see his mother Blanca. A guard gives them two minutes together.
In court the 13 women are part of a larger group of 56 men and women. They are accused of trying to bring down the Franco government. Virtudes looks around and see her boyfriend Teo in the group. They are said to have been trying to bring communism back into vigor in Spain. Blanca looks around and sees her husband. The state asks for the death penalty. Some of the women start to cry. The lousy defense attorney says with all the abundant evidence against the girls, he can only ask the court for leniency.
Back in prison, the women write letters to Franco asking for leniency. Carmen runs outside to be with her spiritual sisters. The warden tells Blanca that she will write a favorable report for her and for her husband. Blanca asks her: "And the others?" The warden walks away. Virtudes tells Carmen to remember that they fought for a just cause. She also says that when they are all gone, someone will have to remember what happened to them. Carmen asks: "How could I ever forget?" Virtudes asks Carmen to promise that she will not be afraid. Carmen promises. Virtudes then adds that they are going to have to be brave, very brave, for they will not be pardoned.
In the morning the condemned women's names are called out. It's time for their executions. Carmen cries and calls the warden and her matrons murderers. Victoria is extremely frightened and tries to run from her executioners. She runs to the warden and cries that she doesn't want to die. The warden hugs her, but it's time to go. The rest of the women start banging on their plates with their silverware in protest.
The condemned women are giving a chance to confess to the priest. If they don't confess, they will not be able to mail out a last letter to their relatives. While they write their letters, they hear a volley from the firing squad. Now Victoria really sobs. Blanca starts and then Virtudes.
The women are told to get in the truck. The warden cries as the truck pulls out. Julia's mother screams for her and they touch hands for a brief moment. The women start singing a song about the Young Guard. The women are taken to a cemetery and there they are lined up against a cemetery wall. Julia yells at the soldiers that they are not men, otherwise they wouldn't be doing this. The women hold hands. They go back to hugging each other. The order is given to fire and the men fire.
Carmen lays in bed in a prison room by herself.
Quique reads the letter from his mother. Then he bicycles away.
"On August 5th, 1939, in the East Cemetery in Madrid, 43 men and 13 women were executed by firing squad. Almost all minors, the women are known as "the 13 roses". The documents and letters cited in this film are completely authentic."
Spoiler Warning. Emotionally, this is the toughest Spanish Civil War film I have watched. There was violence, yes, but also sustained cruelty and torture. And then comes the terribly tragic end. Tough to watch, hard to forget. The acting was good all-around. The 13 roses were certainly martyrs for democracy. They fought against fascism and for a democratic government. The movie was good because it feels so tragic.
Down with Fascism!
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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