LIBERTARIAS (Freedomfighters), by Vicente ARANDA,
in Spanish with English subtitles.
WRITING CREDITS: Vicente Aranda, José Luis Guarner, Antonio Rabinaud.
CINEMATOGRAPHY: José Luis Alcaine, Juan Amorós.
EDITING: Teresa Font.
ORIGINAL MUSIC: José Nieto.
CAST: Victoria ABRIL, Blanca APILÁÑEZ, Ana BELÉN, Ariadna GIL, Loles LEÓN, Laura MAÑÁ, José SANCHO, Jorge SANZ.
Vicente Aranda is not a newcomer in the field of cinema since he has directed more than a dozen films, and successfully so. For this LIBERTARIAS, he surrounded himself with a very fine cast, actually by the best actresses of contemporary Spanish cinema. The translation of the title in English is not satisfactory. It does not specify that the central characters are women. “Libertarias” means “anarchist women”; this title is indeed dedicated to an organization founded in Spain in 1936 called MUJERES LIBRES (“Free Women”), which was a part of the already existing F.A.I. (Iberian Anarchist Federation). It is important to underline that MUJERES LIBRES was founded April, or, therefore, prior to the events narrated, before the July 18 military coup against the Republic and the July 19 victory of the people against the Fascists in Barcelona.
The organization published the magazine MUJERES LIBRES that, besides supporting all the causes the libertarian communists defended, insisted particularly on specific problems more closely associated with women: birth control (Federica Montseny was Ministry of Health, during the short anarchist collaboration with the Republican Government, and in that capacity had immediately approved legal free abortion whenever necessary); free love; the right to fight in the front lines, alongside men; revolt against patriarchy; and so on. Spanish anarchists did not care for this film very much and panned it in their press. There is, indeed, a soap opera side to this film: the former priest falling in love, or, rather, lusting after the former nun; the prostitutes engaging in revolution, etc. But one has to take into account that Aranda did not intend to make a documentary but a fiction film, therefore he did not need to be historically (or politically) correct; as an artist he is entitled to tell the story his own way.
Born in 1926, the filmmaker could not have lived the events and therefore he reconstitutes them. Some might be wrong, others might be ugly, but the central story, here, revolves around a nun (Ariadna Gil) and her discovery of anarchism through Pilar (Ana Belén) who becomes for her a substitute Mother Superior. She remains a fervent Catholic, and the fact that she is respected as such by a group of atheists and some former prostitutes only enhances the climate of tolerance that permeates the whole cadre of partisans. While at first shocked by the events, she is progressively converted to the ideas of those idealists. At first, she recites Bakunin and Kropotkin as she would with verses of the Holy Scriptures then, little by little, she creates a synthesis and accepts the vision of an anarchistic Jesus Christ. After all, that is the spirit of Spain: half-Catholic and half-atheist, half-conservative, and half-evolutionary. As far as the awakening of a conscience is concerned, Aranda goes very deeply inside the human psyche, and he does so with plenty of tact.