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Gernika (2016) • Review
War Romance tale set during The Spanish Civil War


All reviews are from Imdb

In the prelude to war, the first casualty is the truth.

The fates of Henry – a cynical American correspondent who has lost his soul – and Teresa, one of the Republic’s censors and in charge of overseeing the news that journalists can send abroad, cross in Gernika.

The screenplay tells a story set in Bilbao at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. The main character is Henry, an American correspondent, known for his talent and his constant search for truth.



Henry has recently become cynical and opportunistic though, only interested in his image and his prestige. As he follows the republican side of the fight, he meets young and idealistic Teresa. She is familiar with his old work and accuses him of having let himself go and lost his passion. A great love story is born between the two, as the world around them falls to pieces, up until the bombing of Guernica on 26 April 1937.


*     *     *     *     *

James D'Arcy plays an American journalist who is stationed in Guernica in 1937. The German Condor Legion is active and the war is raging all around, but the Republic have strict orders to only allow good new3s out and as such all journalists are censored to the point of mere mouths for propaganda.

Meanwhile he sort of falls for Teresa who is one of the censors, but her Soviet boss, Vasyl (Jack Davenport) is also romantically committed to her and does not take kindly to the dalliance. We also have the brilliant Burn Gorman playing a NKVD agent who is deliciously ruthless (great piece of casting too) and he brings some welcome spice to the proceedings. What follows are the events that put Guernica on the map – 'for all the wrong reasons'.

This is a really well made film with some great performances (accents aside) and high class CGI and a nice attention to detail. The love interest is good but not really going to be legendary and some could say that the bombing was under done, but I found it to be about right – we don't need loads of screen time of people suffering to make the point. In English, Castilian, Basque and some German with good to average sub titles, this is a film that is very much worth checking out. (By Tom Dooley from London, United Kingdom, Imdb)




*     *     *     *     *

"Guernica" is a very good film and it's well worth seeing. However, I also assume that most folks just aren't that interested in seeing a film about a town leveled in 1937 during the god-awful Spanish Civil War. Not exactly a crowd-pleaser of a topic for a movie in 2016...but still a well made and interesting film.

To really understand the movie, you should know a bit about this war--things you may not clearly understand when you watch. In 1936, the Spanish people elected a socialist government (often called 'Republicans'). However, a coup soon broken out when right-wing nationalist generals decided to depose their leader and create their own government. It wasn't a quick nor easy process, however, and the bloody war raged on for several years. Soon the Soviets began aiding the government and the Axis powers (Germany and Italy) began sending support to help General Franco and his Nationalist forces ultimately win the war. The destruction of the town of Guernica by the Luftwaffe was soon made famous by Picasso's enormous mural named after this city.

When the film begins, Henry (James D'Arcy) is an American news correspondent who working in Spain during this war. He soon finds frustration in covering the events, as often the Republican Spanish government heavily censors his stories--making them, essentially, bland propaganda. What he doesn't realize is that the Soviets advisers in the country are essentially running both this propaganda campaign as well as a Stalinist system by which 'enemies of the state' are ruthlessly purged...whether or not they are guilty of anything. Because Henry has a habit of stepping on toes, he soon is the subject of one of these purges...and this ends up not only affecting him but his lady, Teresa (Maria Valverde). But just as this trap is sprung, the infamous bombing begins.

While this is a romance, I must emphasize that the romantic portion is not primary. Additionally, the plot will not satisfy romance junkies--it doesn't follow the formula of a romance and is more tragic than heartwarming. Instead, the film is more about the events leading up to the carpet bombing of the town of Guernica as well as a vivid recreation of this...and this fictional romance is woven into this. History junkies, however, will be happy with this choice in focus, as the film did an excellent job trying to get the look right of the German planes, uniforms and costumes. It also didn't portray either side as the good guys or bad guys--a mistake many films often make when they discuss the war. Think about it...Stalin on one side, Hitler and Mussolini on the other! About the only thing that didn't work for me in the film was having Henry knowing absolutely no Spanish...none...which was very odd for a news man living in Spain and investigating what's going on in the war. Odd...but not a serious problem with the film. Overall, an interesting and occasionally powerful film about a seldom discussed topic. ("Decent...but at heart not much of a romance", by planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida, Imdb)



*     *     *     *     *

Guernica could have been one of my all time favorites but unfortunately, as it happens too often these days, the culmination was badly executed.

The first act is wonderful, a perfect setup for the upcoming events in the movie, with breathtaking cinematography, decent script and superb acting. The sets and the costumes were top notch, whoever could pull this off with 5 million deserves utmost respect.

The first 30 minutes really feel like you're watching one of those great classics and I was pretty convinced that this movie is going to be ten star material. Unfortunately, as the movie progresses past the second act, it starts to lose its charms.

The focus turns on the love story, which somehow manages to be underdeveloped, despite the huge screen time that it has. From there on, we have a cascading chain of blatant clichés which, combined with a final act that feels disjointed, really ruin the whole experience.

Now if you pay attention, you'll notice that the final act is where we lose the German perspective. A scene on a bomber, a pilot reaction or even the German colonel watching the ongoing bombardment from a far would've kept this perspective alive and could've added some needed dramatic effect. Instead, the focus falls entirely on the events occurring in Guernica, which wouldn't be so bad if the whole act wasn't filled with severely overused clichés.

All in all, this is a pretty decent war drama, which could've been something really special, had the writers come up with more original ideas. ("A classic war drama", A review by procletnic, from Germany, Imdb)


Guernica : Quotes

Henry: So, what's your life's story?
Teresa: I wanted to be a writer. But when the war happened, the loyalists needed people who spoke languages, and knew how to deal with journalists.
Henry: So you're dealing with me?
Teresa: Well, in my way.
Henry: And because you didn't become a writer, you deal in editing what other people write.
Teresa: Well, circumstances delimit one's choices, don't they? To be honest, I'm like you. I don't fit in many places.
Henry: You're a Communist?
Teresa: Loyalist. I wish to see a democracy for Spain.


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