The Spanish Civil War and its memorialization has become an institution unto itself in contemporary Spain. On a yearly basis, new films, novels, poems, texts of fiction, scholarship and research emerge to expand the culture of revisiting, exploration and study brought about by this defining event within Spain’s vast history. One such work of memorialization is the 2007 short film Paseo (translated “A Walk”) that takes one of the most famous poems by Uruguay’s Mario Benedetti (Corazón coraza, translated “Armored Heart”) to weave a story about three men waiting for an inevitable encounter.
Written and directed by Arturo Ruiz Serrano and staring José Sacristán, Paco Tous and Carlos Santos, the short film traces the fate of three men who are strangers to one another and exchange a brief moment before walking together into the ominous horizon from the scene of their encounter. A bohemian poet (José Sacristán), a farmer (Paco Tous) and a young injured soldier (Carlos Santos) share the last moments of their lives before being taken for “A Walk.” “El Paseo” or “The Walk” was codename for an execution during the civil war where countless people were taken from their homes and places of work to then never be seen again.
Spain has its own history of mass graves, enforced disappearances, kidnappings, executions and extra-judicial killings from that era, so much so that much of the art produced about such difficult yet highly relevant topics is crucial for greater understanding at a global and multicultural level. It is no wonder then that Picasso’s Guernica is still considered one of the most famous paintings of modern art.
As for the genre of film, the earliest features started appearing on the international scene during the civil war itself, with films like American director James P. Hogan’s The Last Train from Madrid from 1937. Since then there has been a consistent effort at an international level to treat the subject of the civil war in popular cinema, apart from numerable documentaries and Oscar-nominated and Sundance-featured films. Nonetheless, the films made by Spanish filmmakers on the subject have a distinct approach to engaging with the civil war mainly because of cultural nuance and specificity, which is heavily critiqued as missing in Hemingway’s novel-turned-to-film For Whom the Bell Tolls, despite its international recognition. That is precisely the reason why homegrown cinema about the Spanish Civil War is important and necessary.
In particular, Arturo Ruiz Serrano’s Paseo extends that relevance of homegrown Spanish film-making when engaging with a difficult motif. In his 2007 short film, symbolism is essential to understanding the historical context of the Spanish Civil War, but more importantly, the focus is on a human dimension to provide a space of reflection about war, life, death, violence and compassion. In that, the film successfully communicates the power of poetry in retrieving the loss that people suffer during war. Even with the inevitable at bay, the film underlines the perseverance of spirit and the utility of poetry to carve situations into meaningful moments, bringing forth the idea that small acts of kindness can resist against the dehumanization that is inherent to war.
Strategically set in the mountains, the film reminds viewers of the Valle de los Caídos (the Valley of the Fallen) in the municipality of San Lorenzo del Escorial, near Madrid, where more than 40,000 people killed in the Spanish Civil War are buried. The site nonetheless is controversial since it was founded by Francisco Franco himself, whose tomb also lies there.
Paseo builds on a greater tradition of film-making around the Spanish Civil War, which has become a genre of its own. In doing so, the short puts emphasis on a seemingly miniscule moment of interaction between a poet, a soldier and a farmer, three archetypal figures of the time. In their dialogues, the greater reality of a devastating war is set as the backdrop, one that comes to the foreground towards the end of the film. The juxtaposition between three men sharing a brief moment and the lengthy war that encroaches upon them becomes apparent only as the plot unfolds, revealing the magnitude of the tragedy that engulfed all of Spain and took many lives.
The film coherently portrays its subjects of representation in a neutral manner, one that can be far more relatable, considering the great ideological schism that marked the era. This is necessary to emphasize the human dimension of tragedy, loss and suffering that defines the history of the Spanish Civil War and the thirty years that followed. At the core of the short film is the fact that poetry is employed to retrieve and accentuate the human spirit beyond the constraints of unfathomable situations of death and violence that the body is subject to and into which poetry breathes its soul, courage and spirit of hope and resilience.
(Here is an essential list of films based on or set during the Spanish Civil War and of course some classic titles are missing, but this should be considerable enough to get a head start into the fascinating and tragic world of La guerra civil española).
The short film comes with English subtitles.
About the Director (via PRAGDA)
Film Details (via IMDB)
|Arturo Ruiz Serrano|
Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)
|Arturo Ruiz Serrano|
Cast (in credits order)
|Iván Ruiz Serrano|
Film Editing by
|Ángel Hernández Zoido|
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
|Carlos Padilla García||…||assistant director|
Camera and Electrical Department
|Carlos Balsera||…||electrician / grip|
|Carlos Hernandez Espinosa||…||gaffer / grip|
|Iñigo Iglesias||…||first assistant camera|
|Virginia Llera||…||assistant editor|
|Alexandra Szucs||…||production assistant|