Before seeing this film I was already familiar with the principal book covering the incident, Las Trece Rosas Rojas by Carlos Fonseca, and I think this helped me to keep track of what was happening on the screen. It tells the story of 13 young women who were executed as a group just a few months after the end of the Spanish Civil War. Amid promises of justice and national reconciliation many thousands of people who had been on the side of the democratically elected republican government were rounded up and put in overcrowded jails. These were often people who had only been on the edges of the political organisations or had joined political Youth organisations, the social organisations of the time. Most of the girls in this particular group were under legal age when they were executed, no more than children in the eyes of their contemporaries. At least one, the oldest, was entirely innocent of any association with the political left. She and her husband (executed separately) paying the price for helping a known communist and fellow musician and colleague evade the fascist repression. Executions of this type and on this scale continued for many months, perhaps several years.
There is a lot to keep track of in the movie. Not that the storytelling was confused, the opposite is the case, but covering the stories of so many individuals can be demanding of the viewer. But thanks to a tight script, where possible using the actual words of the girls, and fine acting by the entire cast, especially those in the main roles, a real sense of the injustice and tragedy of the situation is ably conveyed, though we only really get to know half of the girls involved. Personally I think of this as almost a companion piece to Pan's Labyrinth. The direction of the story is much more conventional and realistic, but they both deal with the "reality" of how repressive political systems crush the innocence and spirit of youth.
For some reason, the film has only had a lukewarm reception from the political left in Spain, though it is an extremely important addition to the body of film concerning the Civil War. Perhaps it is slightly too subtle for the mood of the times. One older woman in the cinema when I watched it certainly seemed to have expected a somewhat different film and felt moved to explain very loudly at the end to all present that the dictator Franco had known nothing of these executions! To get this reaction is quite an achievement in itself.
22 out of 26 found this helpful