Spanish title: La paz empieza nunca
Director: León Klimovsky
A Jesús Sáiz and Cifesa Producción production
Story and screenplay: Domingo Almendros, Enrique Doinguez Millán, Jesús Saiz, Leonardo Martin, León Klimovsky, supervised and based on the novel by Emilio Romero
Music: Cristóbal Halffter
Cinematographer: Ricardo Torres
Editor: Antonio Gimeno
Art director: José Algueró
Cast: Adolfo Marsillach (López), Conchita Velasco (Paula) <in> La paz empieza nunca <with> Carmen de Lirio (Pura), Carlos Casaravilla (Dóriga), Kanda Jaque (Carmina), Antonio Casas (Pedro), Jesús Puente (Mencia), Mario Berriatúa (Jorge), José Manuel Martín (leader of guerrillas), Arturo López, Mara Lasso (Concha), Luana Alcañiz, Manuel Alexandre, José Sepúlveda, Manuel Arbó, Maruja Vico, Manuel Zarzo, Francisco Vázquez, Juan I [Ignacio] Galván, José Antonio González Rojas, Emilio Rodríguez, José Villasante, Joaquín Bergía, Francisco Montalvo, Guillermo Hidalgo, Mario Moreno, Antonio Braña, Rodolfo del Campo, Pedro del Río, Antonio Padilla, Pepita Otero, Ramón Gómez Urteaga, Joaquín Burgos, Carmen Pérez Gallo, Joaquín Zazo <and with the collaboration of> Nicolás D. Perchicot, Tomás Blanco (Mencia’s superior in government), Fernando Sancho (farmer on mountain), José Luis Heredia <and> Fernando Gaviria
Beginning in the lead up to the Spanish coup of 1936, the event which ushered in the start of the Civil War, the story begins with a group of friends who live in rural Spain and grow up as committed falangists (the fascist political ideology of the Falange Española de las JONS, the party which would eventually be presided over by Franco). One of them, López, is captured while distributing illicit pamphlets and badly wounded when shot at by the Socialist Armed Guards (despite being unarmed, naturally). He only survives thanks to the administrations of Pura, who despite being a Republican, discovers him on the point of death and nurses him back to health. Once recovered, he returns to fight for the falangists and ends up as a decorated hero with a nice job in the new Nationalist civil service and married to Pura. He finds it difficult to leave behind his adventurous youth, though, so when an old friend who now works for the government comes to him with a dangerous but vitally important proposition he agrees without too much thought. His mission is to pose as a prisoner in an Asturian jail and become close to Dóriga, a criminal who is known to have links to the local maquis (anti-Franco guerrillas backed by republican exiles in France).
La paz empieza nunca (‘Peace never begins’) was very much the kind of production that won the support of Franco and his officials, so the fact that it won a CIFESA (Compañía Industrial Film Español S.A.) award for ‘its high moral and political values’ was more down to the nature of its content than any particular inherent quality that it might have. It also explains why it was a comparatively big budget affair with a large cast and numerous locations; rather different, in short, to the work that director León Klimovsky is more familiar for producing in the later 1960s and 70s.
The story of was inspired by semi-fictional novel of the same name by writer and journalist Emilio Romero. Klimovsky later claimed that the end results were far from what he had intended: his aim was to use the source material but to simultaneously question and undermine the fascist principles which had been exalted in the book. However, the film was forced to undergo a lengthy ‘ideological readjustment’ under the supervision of the Board of Classification and Censorship, which involved making changes to the script (which were carried out by Romero himself) and cutting dialogue and scenes from the final print. As a result it’s often considered to be one of most aggressively pro-fascist films from Franco’s entire regime.
All of this results in something of a tonally discordant film with a very jagged sense of pace, switching from extreme tedium to action sequences in a rather jarring manner. So a lengthy melodramatic scene is immediately followed by a chase across the rooftops; dialogue full of political doggerel segues into a gunfight. The intention is clear: to use the techniques of American popular cinema in order to put across political ideas to as wide an audience as possible (a not dissimilar ambition to the left wing spaghetti westerns later made by filmmakers like Damiano Damiani and Sergio Sollima). It doesn’t exactly work because the political intent is too blatant, with the story seeming overly calculating and Manichean as a result. But if you ignore the politics – and it also helps if you have some awareness of the history of Spain over the years covered – it’s actually tells a rather interesting and occasionally exciting story and, at times, it manages to sneak in an occasional subversive touch (although López very happily betrays Dóriga and his friends, it also implies that he’s conflicted by what he’s done and has been in turn manipulated by his ‘superiors’). It’s also something of a genre-bender, beginning as a war film, touching on a noir, with a prison break thrown in for fun before ending up as a Spanish take on the bandit films that were being made in Italy at the time, productions such as Salvatore Giuliano and Bandits of Orgosolo where Sicilian banditos hid out from the police in the mountains. The Italian films, though, strove to understand what drove people to becoming outlaws; this makes no attempt to get to grips with the complexity of the issues and instead depicts them as a bunch of thugs and killers (at one point even gunning down a priest for fun).
Surprisingly, perhaps, for those with exposure to the director’s frequently slapdash later work, it’s actually made with some skill. The action scenes are relatively fluid and well-staged, it’s shot with some care and the script has an epic scope and is made up of more than a bunch of cliches stolen from other people’s films. The way it uses idiosyncratic local actors brings to mind Italian neo-realism, and it frequently anticipates Sergio Leone by allowing the camera to focus on the array of sunken, gnarled or just plain ugly faces. It also features an array of good performances from just about anyone who was anyone in Spanish cinema at the time (although the prematurely balding Marsillach, who looks considerably older than his thirty two years at the time this was made, doesn’t exactly convince as an idealistic young man). It’s unfortunate that it turned out to be such a disappointing experience for the director, with Klimovsky perhaps left jaded by his experience of trying to make a ‘prestigious’ film and allowing what technique and talent he had to stagnate in favour of earning cash as a hack director for hire.
Review by Matt Blake, 2016
Press coverage & reception
Although it was extremely well received by the press it struggled to find favor with audiences, who were perhaps put off by its ideological brusqueness and perhaps by the fact that it was overlong and over-earnest. Amusingly, even Franco wasn’t persuaded by it, commenting that: “It’s reasonably made, but I did not like it.” [PÉREZ, PERUCHA, J. (ed): Antología crítica del cine español 1906-1995, Ed.Cátedra/Filmoteca española, Madrid, 1997, pag. 401.]
Notes and further information