La guerre est finie
DIRECTOR: Alain Resnais | WRITER: Jorge Semprún | CAST: Yves Montand, Ingrid Thulin, Geneviève Bujold, Jean Dasté, Dominique Rozan, Jean-François Rémi, Marie Mergey, Michel Piccoli | France
At first, La guerre est finie seems like it’s going to be a standard issue spy-type thriller, in this case involving Spanish exile Communists in Paris who periodically enter Spain illegally to work on the front lines in the anti-Franco underground. But this is an Alain Resnais movie so nothing is standard issue about it. The narrative is fractured, often in peculiar ways. For instance, a scene is shot from the main character’s POV while on the soundtrack we hear what he and others are saying, but over that is a narrator speaking to the main character in the second person describing to him what he’s thinking and what he’s about to do. Resnais also does something I’ve never seen in a movie before, or not quite like this, which is sort of the opposite of a flashback, not to the future itself but to an anticipated future. For instance, when Carlos/Domingo/Diego (Yves Montand) is given the particulars about meeting a contact in Spain we see brief flashes of what he’s imagining the meeting will be like based on his previous clandestine trips to Spain: the train station, how the contact will approach him, etc., which when the events do take place are not quite as Diego had anticipated.
This all sounds fussy and confusing, but it’s not. (La guerre est finie feels straightforward and conventional in a way that other early Resnais films absolutely do not.) Yves Montand plays a professional Communist revolutionary who’s grown weary. Just back from 6 months working with the underground in Madrid, and worried that another exile’s Spanish cover has been blown, he speaks out against armchair revolution directed from the safety of an apartment in a Paris suburb. At the same time he is appalled by the (literal) bomb-throwing terrorist activities of the younger crowd, the adult French-born children of his generation of Spanish political refugees. For him the war is over (hence the title) and no one general strike or bombs at tourist destinations will cause the immediate downfall of the Franco regime. Not that the struggle hasn’t been worth it, but it needs to be recalibrated to take into account everyday people and everyday life but no one is listening. The acting is uniformly good, with Ingrid Thulin and Geneviève Bujold (in her movie debut) standing out, but Yves Montand is absolutely superb. Due to the subtlety of Montand’s performance and the way in which Resnais shows it you get a real three dimensional sense of who this man is without having to wear those funny glasses to see it.