08 November 2007

Thirteen roses

Squeaking in under the wire, today. It's nearly midnight! As is usual on Thursdays, I didn't get home from choir until close to 11 and my first priority is to feed my whiny, demanding stomach. Now, filled with a quinoa sweet potato dish that I just made up and turned out to be surprisingly delicious, it has stopped controlling my actions and I am free to blog.

All day I've been thinking about a movie we saw yesterday, Las 13 Rosas. It was the opening film for the Spanish and Latin American film festival this year in Brussels, followed by a reception, and we were invited courtesy of M's boss not having any interest in going to the forty millionth reception this year. I was looking forward to it all week, as I vaguely knew the movie was about the Spanish Civil War, and that the reception was probably bound to have Spanish wines and cheeses.

But when it came time to go to the reception, after the movie, I didn't exactly feel like mingling and being cheery, because this was the saddest movie I've seen all year. My neck was sore from trying to hold in my sobs, my face was a teary mess, and my heart was heavy. Because it is a movie based on true events (and the documents and letters quoted in the movie are the real thing), it was even more powerful. As M pointed out, his grandfather was held in prisons just like those depicted in the movie; in other words, it touches close to (my husband's/my adopted) home.

The movie tells the story of thirteen young women who are picked up by the police just after the end of the civil war, on suspicion of being "Reds." It depicts their experience before this event, the brutal and violent treatment they receive, and the aftermath of their imprisonment and trial (I won't give away more than this). While the film seemed tinged with that miniseries quality at first, the quality of the acting and the manner in which the story is told drew me in.

One of the best things about it was how it focused on the relationships of these women (some who were best of friends, some who hardly knew each other). Instead of trying to present the full back story of all thirteen, the movie moves from connection to connection in vignettes that interlace and give a great sense of relationship. In fact, many of them get brought to prison because the police follow one of the girls as "bait," watching to see who rushes up to her and embraces her as a friend.

This was one of those movies that makes you wonder what you would do in such a situation. How you would react? Would you succomb to the deliberate currying of fear and suspicion among neighbors? Would you avoid sticking your neck out for others? Or would you risk your life in even small acts of defiance?

These were the thoughts running through my head as we headed to the reception afterwards. In the sea of people, I lost the Mister and was buffetted about by all those giant handbags slung over women's shoulders (why is it suddenly the fashion to carry purses the size of suitcases?). Witty conversation, a glass of wine, and a wedge of Manchego didn't seem terribly appealing.

Today, I'm thankful that we don't live under a dictatorship. That we don't have to make tiny decisions that could mean the imprisonment of neighbors and loved ones.

No comments: