The war that won't die

The Spanish Civil War in cinema

By David Archibald

The war that won't die


  • Paperback
  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-6266-3
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: June 2021
  • BIC Category: Film and Media, Film history, theory & criticism, 1936–1939 (Spanish Civil War period), HISTORY / Europe / Spain & Portugal, ART / Film & Video, Spanish Civil War, The arts / Film theory & criticism


The war that won't die charts the changing nature of cinematic depictions of the Spanish Civil War. In 1936, a significant number of artists, filmmakers and writers - from George Orwell and Pablo Picasso to Joris Ivens and Joan Miró - rallied to support the country's democratically-elected Republican government. The arts have played an important role in shaping popular understandings of the Spanish Civil War and this book examines the specific role cinema has played in this process. The book's focus is on fictional feature films produced within Spain and beyond its borders between the 1940s and the early years of the twenty-first century - including Hollywood blockbusters, East European films, the work of the avant garde in Paris and films produced under Franco's censorial dictatorship.

The book will appeal to scholars and students of Film, Media and Hispanic Studies, but also to historians and, indeed, anyone interested in why the Spanish Civil War remains such a contested political topic.


The research is rich in specifics, and makes abundantly clear why the conflict presents a particularly fruitful subject of analysis in relation to these issues.

In one of Archibald's aforementioned first-hand interviews, Guillermo Del Toro is quoted as saying that "every real event....needs an imaginary re-telling," and The War That Won't Die seems to concur, demonstrating the diverse ways that cinema can contribute meaningfully to debates about the past and its influence on the present.

'Archibald successfully demonstrates through his detailed and wide-ranging analysis, the 'elasticity of cinematic depictions' (p. 184) of the war and its unresolved political, emotional and social legacy. He emphasizes the importance of these contributions in helping understand both events of the Civil War and the difficulties of representing the past, from the point of view of the artist and the historian. The book demonstrates the appositeness of its title, 'The War that Won't Die' in that recent artistic depictions help us understand why the war's legacy is still so contested. While the book's lengthy and often unnecessarily detailed synopses of the films can at times create burdensome readerly headwinds it is a masterful case study on film's contribution to understanding historical events. Its accessible style will benefit students and more advanced scholars of film and the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath.'
Sarah Lonsdale, CINEJ Cinema Journal, Vol. 7, No. 1 (2018)


List of illustrations
Introduction: film, history and the Spanish Civil War
1. Hollywood and the Spanish Civil War: For Whom the Bell Tolls
2. The Spanish Civil War in East German Cinema: Fünf Patronenhülsen/Five Cartridges
3. Surrealism and the Spanish Civil War in cinema: ¡Viva La Muerte!/Long Live
Death and L' arbre de Guernica/The Tree of Guernica
4. Film under Franco: La caza/The Hunt and El jardín de
las delicias/The Garden of Delights
5. Re-cycling Basque history: patterns of the past in Vacas/Cows
6. No laughing matter? Comedy and the Spanish Civil War in cinema
7. Ghosts of the past: El espinazo del Diablo/The Devil's Backbone
8. A story from the Spanish revolution: Land and Freedom/Tierra y Libertad
9. The search for truth in Soldados de Salamina/Soldiers of Salamina


David Archibald is Lecturer in Theatre Film and Television Studies at the University of Glasgow

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