Guernica/Gernika:””So, the truth is whatever I choose to write.”

Year: 2016
Directed by Koldo Serra
Produced by José Alba and Daniel Dreifuss
Written by Barney Cohen and Carlos Clavijo

Cast: James D’Arcy,María Valverde,Jack Davenport,Jack Davenport,Álex García,Barbara Goenaga,Joachim Paul Assböck,Burn Gorman and Markus Oberhauser

As the Spanish Civil War drags on, the Fascist forces are ever closer to victory. The romance that erupts between a jaded American journalist and a Spanish censor is soon embroiled in the political tensions of the war.

Propaganda and war tend to go hand to hand. During a war, information can become a tool of war. When it becomes a tool of war, information becomes propaganda. So, controlling access to information during war is vital; this is where censors come in. Ironically, the jobs of journalists is the complete opposite which is to relay information. Guernica, a Spanish American co-production explores this dynamic during the Spanish Civil War.

In the waning days of the Spanish Civil War, war isn’t going well for the Republican side. Journalists in Spain are the targets of censorship. All journalists must seek the approval of a censor before their work can be released. Henry Howell, a world-weary journalist is losing his passion for his career in this controlling environment. Henry’s story is one of a cynic revitalizing his passion for journalism. While the beats of his story is generally good to passable, the romance is stilted. Teresa is solidly acted as an ardent censor that’s a reflective and noble person. There’s insufficient chemistry and it is rushed. What the romance needed was a tighter narrative that develops the romance better.

Vasyl is a Russian censor that runs the whole base of operation,so, Tersea’s boss. He also has feelings for Teresa thus creating an awkward love triangle. Vasyl has his own arc albeit a negative one. The subplot involving Vasyl is underdeveloped. Nonetheless, Vasyl’s predicament is understandable . He’s a victim of circumstance. The ensuing melodrama of the awkward love triangle does hit some emotional notes. Guernica dedicates initially quite a bit of screen time to Marta which is odd considering her role doesn’t amount to much. Another odd creative choice that doesn’t make good use of the screen time is the focus on the Luftwaffe. Those scenes are mainly about the Germans honing and field testing their tactics that will allow them to perfect blitzkrieg. Given the historical significance of the air raid over Guernica, the importance of these scenes do have some merit. But, that doesn’t excuse how poorly integrated the Luftwaffe scenes are.

Speaking of the air raid, the bombing of Guernica send shockwaves through the world when it happened. Its destruction has left a certain mark on the public consciousness. Guernica reaches its most emotional highpoint when it finally shows the tragedy of its namesake. The ” humanface” behind that tragedy is powerfully manifested in the imagery.

Guernica is shaken by a less than stellar execution and badly needs a more harmonious plot. Nonetheless, achieves something of merit because of its drive to portray its subject matter with poignancy.

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