Basque director Montxo Armendariz’s first film since his internationally acclaimed Secrets of the Heart (also showing in this programme), Broken Silence is a vivid period drama about a small town’s divided loyalties in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Following Franco’s victory, groups of Republican guerillas known as the ‘Maquis’ went into hiding and continued their battle as resistance fighters, hiding out in mountain ranges and forests. Set in 1944, the film follows 21-year-old Lucia (Lucia Jimenez) as she arrives in a small mountain village to work at the bar owned by her aunt, Teresa (Mercedes Sampietro). Lucia falls in love with Manuel (Juan Diego Botto), a local blacksmith with ties to the Maquis. When Manuel leaves to join the guerillas, Lucia begins to discover the secrets and terrible fear that stalk the seemingly quiet village streets.
There’s a lush beauty to Armendariz’s clear-eyed vision of crushed hopes and lives shattered by politics. The harsh impoverishment of life in post-war rural Spain is meticulously recreated, and Guillermo Navarro’s cinematography captures the rich textures of damp, misty and darkly atmospheric mountain landscapes in some wonderful images. Armendariz’s script, which resulted from much research, has the ring of truth. The film’s main strengths are its understanding of the psychology of fear and of how political divisions can break not only a community but also the human spirit. Lola’s journey from outspoken idealist to tight-lipped traitor feels completely natural, while the matriarchal Teresa’s struggles to keep things together are destined to come to nothing. This is a major film from a director whose work deserves to be better known outside Spain.
2001. English subtitles. Colour. Dolby stereo. 110 mins