The Anarchist's Wife (2008)




Director:     Marie Noelle, Peter Sehr.

Starring:     María Valverde (Manuela),  Juan Diego Botto (Justo),  Ivana Baquero (Paloma - age 15),  Nina Hoss (Lenin),   Jean-Marc Barr (Pierre),  Laura Morante (Lucienne),  Irene Montalà (Pilar), Adrià Collado (Francisco),   Biel Durán (Luis),  Pere Arquillué (Jaime),   Natja Jamaan (Concha),  Sílvia Sabaté (Loli Muñoz),  Rene Visedo (Paloma - age 35).

the anarchist's wife never gives up hope on seeing her husband again after he fought in the Spanish Civil War and then joined the French Resistance


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.

"On July 17th, 1936 a coup instigated by General Franco ended Spain's democracy.  A gruesome civil war ensued.  By the end of 1939 one million people had been killed, two million people imprisoned and 500,000 exiled."

Playa De Argeles, Frankreich 1968.  A young woman walks along the beach.  As narrator she says:  "I was 4 when Franco set the German Condor legion on us.  I learned how to distinguish the hum of a Heinkel from the thunder of a Junkers 52.  I learned the intervals at which they dropped their bombs, like other children knew the interval between thunder and lightning."

Flashback.  On the radio a young man says that Madrid, Spain has become a symbol of the resistance against tyranny.  Madrid is the last bastion of freedom in Spain.  "Madrid has resisted for more than 18 months."  After he finishes, the broadcaster in the station tells the audience that the speaker was Justo Calderon."   Marid is being bombed.  Justo runs to find his wife and daughter.  Today is their wedding anniversary.  He kisses and hugs his wife. 

In the cellar of their apartment building Justo points to a map and tells those with him in the cellar that the Fifth Columns will try to stop the rebels at Brunete.  His little girl asks him where will he be in the fighting?   He says he and his comrades will head north to defend the university town.  He gives some documents to his wife and asks her to put them in the safe in his office. 

Scenes are seen of bombed Madrid. 

Manuela goes to her husband's office.  His partner Pedro is moving his stuff out of the office.  He says a bomb hit their house and now the house is gone.  Manuela tells him that he can move with his family into the office.  Pedro is very grateful to Manuela for the offer.  She then puts the documents in her husband's safe. 

Her husband not broadcasts from a cave build into the base of a hill.  He reports that their position in Brunete have been consolidate.   Tomorrow they can reinforce Lister's 46th division.  "Teruel will be ours again."

In the evening he comes home to his apartment.  He looks in on his little daughter.  He starts walking to his own bedroom when Manuela flings open the doors and stands there in a pretty red gown.  She says she wore this outfit specifically so he can take it off her.  (brief nudity) 

Justo tells Manuela that the fascists have taken Teruel and now Madrid is the next target.  He tells her to leave Madrid via the road to Valencia which momentarily is still open. 

Justo gets into a chauffeured car driven by his brother-in-law and is heads off.  A Republican officer asks another officer if he can get to Guadalajara and back in one day?  Yes. 

The trenches of of the fascists are close to those of the Republicans.  Insults are shouted out by each side directed at the other side. 

In a nail salon, Manuela's sister-in-law Pilar says she is going to go find her husband.  They tell her that he is in Burgos with Franco.  Manuela's daughter is named Paloma. 

Waiting in line for food, a young girl is shot and killed.  Little Paloma looks at the girl on the ground and says that she is dead. 

In bed Justo tells Manuela that Martin is going to take her and Paloma to Paris where she will be safe.  To convince her to go he says that their Paloma is starving.  "For God's sake, you have to go!"  But Manuela insists that she is staying in Madrid where she belongs.  Justo tells her:  "And if Madrid falls?  You're an anarchist's wife."   She responds that when he dies, she shall die.  Manuela says she doesn't want to live without him. 

Pilar is having to move out.  She is the wife of a fascist.  The Republican men don't like her.  And they want to know why Manuela is her helping her?  Manuela says she is moving her sister-in-law out.  Then she goes over to talk with Pilar.  Manuela says she will have Justo help her.  Pilar says why would an anarchist help the wife of his fascist brother?  The men want to take Pilar with them and then have one of their courts decide her fate.  Manuela protests:  "But she hasn't done anything."

One of the Republicans calmly walks over to Pilar and shoots her dead.  Manuela shouts:  "Murderer!"  One of the men speaking with Manuela says that man who killed her sister-in-law is part of a special unit mostly composed of fanatics. 

Justo on the radio says about the incident:  "Our common enemy is Fascism, but also the ones who use the revolution to justify their atrocities."  The broadcaster tells the audience that this is Justo's last broadcast from Madrid.  Tomorrow he will be in the thick of the fighting in the 22nd Brigade on the Ebro front

(The Ebro River is the biggest river by discharge volume in Spain.  The river starts in Fontibre (Cantabria) and flows largely southeast to discharge in a delta on the Mediterranean close to Amposta in the province of Tarragona.  The Ebro River has many tributaries flowing down from the Iberian System on one side, and the Navarre mountains and the western Pyrenees, on the other.)

Justo's brother is very upset and comes to tell Justo:  "I had to bury my wife.  She didn't do anything."  He accuses his brother of killing his wife and threatens to shoot him with his pistol.  He does not shoot. 

(The Battle of the Ebro, July to November 1938, was the longest and bloodiest battle of the Spanish Civil War with 17,600 dead for the fascists and 57,150 dead for the Republicans.  The battle occurred mainly in two areas on the lower course of the Ebro River.)

Paloma says her dad left for three days and then 4 months passed by without his return.  Teruel has fallen once again and the fascists tighten their encirclement around Madrid.  Franco succeeded in dividing Spain.  Then she hears her father on the radio that the Republicans have captured 4,000 prisoners.  Her mother and Uncle Luis decide o have something to drink to celebrate the occasion.  Later Manuela takes her daughter to see a movie.  While there, a bomb hit across the street from the theater.  Mother and daughter go over and see it's their apartment building that has been hit and is on fire.  While mother asks about where is her brother Luis, Paloma goes into the apartment building looking for Luis.  Manuela tries to go in after her, but part of the building collapses in front of her and a worker holds her back from going in after Paloma. 

Justo shows up at an ad-hoc airport.  He meets there his friend Marc Leprince.  They hug each other and Justo says he desperately wants to get to Madrid to check on his wife and child.  Marc says his blonde wife Leni (or Lenin) will take him to Madrid.  The plane takes off.

Justo runs over to his apartment building filled with fear at the wreckage he sees.  He finds his family at his office.  He is very relieved to see them and they are happy to see him.  Dad fixes the radio up where they can get good reception.  Manuela is very pregnant and Justo says if it's a boy they will name him Rafael. 

Justo is going to close down his legal office.  The secretary will stay put and help Justo's wife and two children.  He is closing all his legal cases.  And he and Luis burn some sensitive papers in the bathroom sink.  Justo says he should have insisted that Manuela head to Paris, but who thought the French would close off their borders to the Spanish?  Luis says that President Daladier is a coward.  (Édouard Daladier was prime minister of France from 31 January 1933 – 26 October 1933; 30 January 1934 – 9 February 1934; and 10 April 1938 – 21 March 1940.)

Justo has to go to Barcelona. His wife gets upset when she learns that Justo is leaving again.  The doorbell rings.  It's Leni waiting to take Justo to Barcelona.  Justo says he will be with her in a couple of minutes.  He goes back to see his wife and she says she cannot take it anymore.  She tells him:  "If you go, I'll forget you."  He tells her that perhaps that is best.  He leaves. 

At home Manuela has one child and a baby to take care of.  She gets dressed up in a nice outfit and goes to see General Pozas.  She asks the General how can she find her husband?  The General tells her that Franco is in Barcelona and the government has left for Figueras.  He also says that hundreds of thousands of Spanish refugees are streaming into France.  He advises her:  "You should take the next ship out of here."

At home Pedro says that the war is over.  Franco will be in Madrid soon.  He even calls the Republican President Negrin an asshole.  Luis tells Pedro that he always knew that Pedro was a fascist.  But Luis says they will have to negotiate with Franco or there will be much more bloodshed.  Manuela tells her brother that Franco won't negotiate with them.  "Franco is out to destroy us."  Luis says the negotiations have already started.  "General Miaj is forming a defense council without Negrin."

Pedro get tired of listening to the talk and he and his wife leave the kitchen area to eat elsewhere.  Pedro comes back a little later and tells Luis that he better watch what he is saying or he is going to regret it later. 

The war is over.  Franco is in power. 

Manuela goes to check the long list of the fallen in battle.  Justo's name is not there.

In somewhat of a disguise, Luis leaves the apartment building.  Outside waiting for him are the secret police.  They grab him and throw him into their car. 

Luis is now in a huge holding cell with no roof.  With him are a lot of other men.  Manuela yells down to him and he hears her.  She comes downstairs to the cell bars and talks to Luis.  He asks her to get some morphine tablets for him.  He says he is afraid of being tortured.  And he warns her about Pedro Munoz.  He says Munoz is a pig and a hypocrite. 

Paloma tells her mother that Munoz's son is back home, but he's missing an arm. 

A fellow comes to Manuela's home and says to her:  "It's simple.  The new government has seized your husband's possessions and I bought them."  The son of Munoz tells her that because Manuela helped her parents in their hour of need, he will not throw Manuela out.  But she has to move to the smallest room in the house and she has to pay rent.  Manuela asks how can she get money to pay the rent?  The one armed son says that he knows of a job where she can work for the rent.  Pedro and his wife come into the apartment.  He says that his son's offer is very fair.  Manuela comments:   "The father denounces my brother, and the son steals my flat."  Under his breath, Pedro calls her an ungrateful bitch.

She goes to the prison with food for her husband, but he's no longer there.  He and his comrades have been transferred to another facility. 

There are reprisals against the Republicans.  Many of the leaders are executed. 

At night Manuela starts to masturbate thinking of her husband.  The little girl sees her and thinks mother is crying.  She opens the door and asks her mother is her father dead like Uncle Luis? 

Manuela goes to see a fascist clerk.  He asks her when was the last time she saw her husband?  June 10, 1938.  He informs her that on May 2nd of this year of 1939 the military tribunal condemned her husband to death for espionage and aiding an armed revolt.  If her husband contacts her in any way, she must report it or she will be severely punished.  Now he asks again the first question he asked.  So, Manuela smiles and says:  "So you also think he's still alive."

Uncle Luis comes home.  In the dark hallway Paloma thinks it's her father.  Mother hears the conversation, concludes the same thing, and promptly faints.  Later she tells her brother-in-law that nobody could have saved his wife Pilar.  "There were animals among us, too."  He tells her that Justo killed her.  She says that brother-in-law's friends killed her brother Luis without even a trial.  "Victors, full of hate, executed him for crimes he never committed."  She tells her guest that as long as she does not know the status of her husband, the war is still going on for her. 

At her work, she argues with her supervisor.  Her one armed neighbor is her boss.  He tells her that she owes him rent.  She tells him:  "You're very good at making money on other people's misery."  He touches her and says he's only trying to help her.  She tells him:  "Don't touch me!"  She leaves to go outside.  She goes over to see a black market vendor.  She gives him her coat and some money and gets some baby food and four or five forbidden magazines. 

Rafael is in the hospital with a high fever.  Mom and sister wait outside in the hall.  The doctor comes out, tells something to the mother and wham, he gets slapped in the face, as she screams:  "No!  No!"

And now it's Manuela in the hospital bed. She is heavily sedated and starts talking in her sleep thinking that Justo has returned.

The brother-in-law watches over Paloma.    On the next bed to Paloma's smaller bed.  On the master bed is the corpse of Rafael. 

Manuela is released from the hospital.   She rides home with her husband's brother.  He says he wants Paloma and Manuela to come live with him where he has lots of room.  She tells her brother-in-law that whatever he is thinking, forget about it.  She already has a husband. 

At home a nurse visits Manuela.  She falls asleep and dreams again of being with her husband.   Manuela misses her husband so much that she is very depressed.

One morning a cousin opens the blinds and tells Paloma that the Allies have won the war. 

Manuela has a letter.  She runs to her brother-in-law's place.  When he opens the door she files into his arms saying that Justo is alive! And he's in France.  The brother-in-law looks at the letter.  He tells Manuela that the letter is six years old.  Manuela asks him if he can go with her to Paris to look for her husband?  He says it would be pointless.  They can't find Justo.  Manuela says she will go by herself. 

Manuela talks with an official that deals with finding people.  The files are in a real mess.  She doesn't know the thousands of names of men who crossed over the border into France.  She says it's 3even a possilbiloity that Manuela's husband went to Mexico with many others Republican fighters. 

Manuela and her brother-in-law accompanied by Paloma attend an American movie starring Rita Hayworth.  In one of the newsreels, Manuela tells her daughter that she saw her father on the newsreel.  Her daughter tells her to stop it. 

Manuela reports to Paloma that she sees her father's face in a group picture of former prisoners.  Paloma doesn't think the face is that of her father.

Manuela wants to follow what she thinks is a lead to find her husband in Switzerland.  Her brother-in-law tells her that he will get all the necessary papers for her to travel abroad.

A Republican, Jaime, talks with Manuela.  He tells her that Justo was shot, and taken to a German camp.   And he survived.  In fact, Jaime has talked to him fairly recently.  He's alive and safe and desperately wants to see his family.   He mentions that Franco is trying to kill off the Republican leaders.  That's why they are being so cautious.

As narrator, Paloma says her father's letter was short.  He wrote:  "I will wait for you for two months at the Cerbere train station as soon as they open the borders." 

On January 2nd, 1949, the borders opened.  Uncle Francisco arranged for their travel papers.  They left for France on January 4.  They arrive at Cerbere.  They walk to the hotel and there in a large dining room they find Justo.  He looks for Rafael, but he can tell from the tears in his wife's eyes that Rafael died. 

The family travels by bus to where dad lives.  Leni, the pilot, is the driver of the bus.  The place looks run-down, but wife and daughter do not complain.   At dinner dad talks about Rafael.  He asks his wife if she really wants him after all this time?  Of course, she does. 

It appears that Justo is involved with some kinds of smuggling operation.  There are lots of handoffs between different people.  The family goes to a restaurant where there are lots of Spanish Republicans.  Leni works there.  Paloma sees her father talking with Leni and thinks the two are too close to each other.  She doesn't like it one bit, but does not tell her mother.  When Justo sit at the table with his family, they toast to their new life. 

Justo goes to see about school for his daughter, but the director says he can't take on any more students, ". . . especially one who doesn't speak French."  Paloma is mad that her father didn't use his words to defend her in there with the director.  She tells him:  "No wonder you lost your war."  She walks away from him.  She runs home, cries and throws herself on her bed. 

The gang of Republicans meet at an airfield.  One of the group was wounded slightly.  They bring him in and he says the car gave out and he had to leave it behind.  So they want to retrieve that car.

As Paloma is on the street she sees a bus go by driven by Leni with her father as the passenger.  The sight of the two together upsets her again.  When next she sees her father she again walks away from him.

Justo is with his colleagues again.  They are printing their own counterfeit money.  They want to give some money to the general strike being called in Spain.  Justo doesn't think a general strike will hurt Franco much, so he's not enthusiastic about the idea. 

At night Manuela says her husband looks exhausted.  She says she could get a job to take some of the load off his shoulders.  He replies that there is no need to work.  Then Manuela says she wants to have another baby. 

Paloma keeps acting out against her father.  He stops her and takes a letter from her.  He says that the letter with their return address on it, can give the Spanish secret police the place where to find him.  Paloma doesn't care.  She says she will write to whoever and whenever she wants to.  She gives the fascist salute and dad slaps her across the face.  She grabs her letter and off she goes.  At home she continues to snub her father. 

Paloma works with the dressmaker.  One day the subject of Leni comes up and Paloma says that she just doesn't like Leni.  The other dress maker says:  "You do know that without her, your father wouldn't be alive today?  Despite the sanatorium he was a walking corpse.  They were in the resistance together, your dad, Lenin and her husband Marco."  Leni's husband did not survive the war, but Justo did. 

And sure enough, the police come to call at the Morales home.  They want to know where to find her husband.  She says she lives alone.  After the police are gone, she rushes down to Justo's place of work to tell him that the police are looking for him.  She tells Justo that the Spanish authorities will have the French extradite Justo back to Spain.  Justo tells her not to worry because he is just a simple worker. 

At the dress shop, the older dress maker says that Paloma must run to tell Leni that the house isn't safe anymore.  So Paloma runs to Leni's place.  She goes inside and see her father with Leni again.  She once again misinterprets what's going on.  So Paloma doesn't deliver the message to Leni.  She rushes home to tell on her father to her mother. 

Leni comes to the printing facility and tells them that the police came to the airfield forcing her to make up a whole new story.  She wants to know"  "Why wasn't I warned?"  The older dress maker says she sent Paloma to warn her. 

At home, Manuela is going through her husband's papers. 

The conspirators are going to try to kill Franco from the air.  They practice a bombing run to see if they can hit a model the size of the fishing vessel Franco will be on. 

Manuela has a talks with Leni.  She talks about the time when Justo showed up only partly human.  He gradually recovered little by little.  She also says that Justo's lung were all filled with shrapnel.  This reveals that there was nothing going on between Justo and her. 

At home Manuela asks her husband why doesn't he trust her?  She adds that he just can't just push her away. 

Justo is coughing more and more now.  His condition is getting very bad.  Leni is with him and she is saddened and worried to see him in such poor health.  She asks what is she going to do without him?  He gives her a hug saying it will be alright. 

Right next to Manuela and Paloma, the police grab Jaime off the streets.  Paloma wants to know what's going on.  Her mother just tells her to go to Marie and Lucienne.  When Paloma runs into the dress shop she finds Marie and Lucienne in bed together.  The two women see that Paloma is extremely upset and worried.  Paloma says that she knows something's going on her.  The two women say they will tell Paloma about what is happening. 

Two French policemen now grab Justo.  Manuela goes down to the police station to plead with the head of police.  She says that her husband fought for a Free France in the French Resistance.  The police head says nowadays everyone is saying they were in the French Resistance.  She says Franco will have her husband killed.  The police says that nobody gets deported from France without a trial. 

Manuela and Paloma go to see Justo who is now in the prison hospital.  And now that Paloma understands what has been going on, she plays chess with her father.  She asks him why he never told them anything about his life when he was fighting?  He just asks who cares about that anyway?  Paloma hugs her dad. 

The conspirators start burning the counterfeit money. 

The head of police tells Manuela that three resistance fighters have said that Justo was fighting along side them.  And his passport is not valid.  Justo will have to report to the police station once a month. 

Leni goes on the bomb run, but she never found Franco. 

Justo and Manuela go to visit the place where he was was imprisoned in a concentration camp.   Justo breaks down and cries when telling Manuela all about it.   He says he was here with 5,602 Red Spaniards.   

Back to the present.  Paloma on the beach says that her mother never returned to Spain.  She stayed where her husband and her lived together. 

Madrid 1968.  Franco died peacefully in his bed in 1975. 

It was not until 1978 that Spain enacted a democratic constitution.  She says now Spaniards are happy that they live in a democratic land. 


Good movie.  It gives more information about the Spanish Civil War than most films do.   For instance, there are scenes speaking of the Battle of the Ebro and show the final collapse of Madrid to the fascists.  The war may have stopped, but a reign of terror followed where many Spaniards had to live in fear because they were on the political left during the war and before the war.  There was a real fear that Franco would kill all the former leaders of the Republican army and government.  It is only after the death of Franco in 1975, when the people were able to bring forward freedom, justice and liberty, the very things for which Paloma's father fought so hard for. 

The acting was good all around.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



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