Monday, May 19, 2014

The Siege Of Alcazar

a movie.

First, some historical background. The siege of Alcazar took place in the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, in the summer of 1936 and lasted for more than two months. General Franco started the rebellion against the Republic on July 17. On July 18, the military governor of Toledo Colonel Moscardo with a group of officers loyal to Franco, several cadets and men from Guardia Civil joined the Nationalist uprising. They refused to surrender their arms to the Republican government and when confronted with the military forces of the Republic, locked themselves up in Alcazar, a medieval fortress on a hill, together with approximately 500 women and children.

Moscardo and his men held Alcazar against much stronger enemy forces till they were rescued by Franco on September 26, 1936. This victory wasn't very important from a strategic point of view, however the resistance at Alcazar had a huge symbolic value and provided material for successful propaganda of the Nationalist cause in Spain and abroad. As a result of it, Italy produced a film about the siege in 1940, called in Spanish: Sin novedad en el Alcazar, which currently is available on YouTube.

I didn't find much propaganda in the film though, apart from the use of the Roman salute forever associated with the bad guys, as the story line in the film was nearly identical to the one in Wikipedia, however, the movie wasn't only about the siege, but also included a love story which I'm going to write about (you can read more about Alcazar over here)

The film begins with everyone going on summer vacation, including two cadets and their captain by the name of Vela. One of the cadets, Francesco, is engaged to a girl called Conchita who lives with her elderly aunt at Toledo.Conchita is a very serious girl who is deeply in love with Francesco, but she has a friend called Carmen who comes from Madrid to spend a month with her.

Carmen is a flirt and thinks that all men exist to serve her. She laughs at Conchita for her devotion to one guy. Francesco's friend, a guy with funny glasses whose name eludes me, so I will designate him as Harry Potter, is very impressed by Carmen but she doesn't take him seriously.

Captain Vela goes to Madrid with Francesco and HP, where they get the news about Franco and decide to return to Toledo. As the Republican forces are approaching, women and children have to be evacuated and to stay in the dungeons under Alcazar. Francesco and HP come to fetch both girls and the aunt. Carmen is indignant that she can't take all her dresses, but HP tells her it's only for a couple of days.

When Carmen finds herself under the ground, she right away starts complaining and demands HP to provide her with more comfort and if possible, a room of her own. HP is happy to oblige and brings her a matress, a pillow and then goes to fetch a screen so that the girl would have some privacy. When she departs, Carmen tells Conchita that she has yet to meet a guy who wouldn't want to serve her.

Captain Vela finds HP running around looking for feathers to make the pillow softer and decides to go and investigate. When Carmen sees him, she repeats her complaints but Vela's reaction is quite different from what she expected. He says: "You are very spoiled, Miss. It's not a hotel!" and announces that he is taking the matress for the wounded, together with the pillow.

As a result of this conversation, Carmen falls in love with the captain and decides to prove that she isn't a spoiled brat he took her for and next time she meets Vela, asks his permission to help in the hospital. She got her nursing diploma when she was trying to catch a doctor, but now she wants to become a real nurse. Vela  gives his permission and so, besides nuns, Carmen becomes the only woman to work there.

Vela regularly comes to the hospital on business but continues to ignore Carmen who, however. chooses every opportunity to draw his attention to herself. The captain starts noticing that she is actually pretty, but at this moment she meets a guy she knew and flirted with in Madrid who was wounded and is in need of medical help, by the name of Pedro.

Pedro used to be the same sort of person as Carmen, but the recent events made him more serious, and he decides to propose to the girl, but Carmen refuses. She loves Vela, but is afraid to talk to him about her feelings. Pedro dies during a sortie, but before this, he tells Vela about Carmen. The two finally confess their feelings to each other. Carmen says that she is a changed woman, and that she hopes that she is now worthy of such a man as himself. Vela agrees that she is. HP doesn't stand a chance.

I thought the male-female dynamics in the movie quite interesting, especially compared to modern films. It was a bit like a fairy tale, where the Stepmother's daughter has to turn into a Cinderella first to get her prince. Vela was one of many characters in the film, so he didn't have that much of screen time, but he was shown undoubtedly as an alpha.

 In the beginning, when he interferes in the conversation of Francesco and HP with the girls at the train station,  asking  cadets for some change and reminding them who is the boss. In the dungeon, when he puts spoiled Carmen in her place. In the hospital, when Francesco dies from his wounds, HP has to turn away because he can't conceal his tears, but Vela keeps looking. In the scenes of the final battle, when Vela risks his life to get rid of the Republican flag on the destroyed tower, it's him who climbs the ladder under the enemy fire and reinstalls the Rebel flag.

The film teaches a valuable lesson that to get a man of quality, you must become a woman of quality yourself. You can watch the movie on YouTube, but it is in Spanish. English subs can be found on the internet.

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