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The Spanish Civil War: Literature, Art and Cinema

 Land and Freedom
Directed by Ken Loach.

Answer as many of the following questions as you can. You may not have noticed some of the details that I will ask you about. Don't worry if you can't answer them all.

As the film opens, an old man dies and his granddaughter begins to look through his belongings and keepsakes. She finds letters and newspaper articles that her grandfather kept from the days when he was young, in the 1930's, when he went to fight in the Spanish Civil War. The story of this man is the story shown in the film. Since he sent the letters to his girlfriend back in England, I think we should assume that he eventually married her and that she was also the girl's grandmother. It would also make sense that the newspaper clippings would have been collected by her, since he would not have been in England at the time most of the stories were published.

  1. How does the main character (David) become interested in going to Spain to fight in the Civil War? What is he told about the Civil War?

  2. When he arrives in Spain, how is he treated by Spaniards whom he meets on the train and why?

  3. What is the military training of the volunteers like? Give some specific examples.

  4. Who are these volunteers? (What kinds of people are they and where to do they come from?)

  5. When David's company takes a town (where Blanca's companion is killed by a sniper), a priest is dragged from the church and shot. Why?

  6. The people from the town have a meeting to make some important decisions. What is the most important issue? What are the arguments, pro and con? What do they decide to do?

  7. David is injured while training some new recruits. How does the injury occur? Is this kind of mishap rare? Why?

  8. When David goes to Barcelona for medical treatment, Blanca comes for a visit. She discovers that he has joined a different unit. From what you have seen up until now, do you understand why she is so angry? Explain. Remember: she is a member of the POUM.

  9. Communists battle Anarchists (supposedly fighting for the same cause) for control of Barcelona. David is sent with other soldiers to battle troops the opposite faction. At some point, while trading shots with people from the other side, he discovers that there's someone on the "enemy" side from close to his home town in England. What decision does David make and why?

  10. David gets into a fight with some Republican soldiers in a bar when he hears them talk about the POUM and especially what the women in the POUM companies are like. What did the men say that provokes David?

  11. Not long after David returns to the front lines, some men, including an old comrade from the POUM company, arrive in a truck. They have orders to force the POUM members to surrender their guns and disband. (They will be absorbed into other military units.) How do the men and women in the company react? What is the outcome of the showdown?

  12. Near the end of the film, David takes a handful of dirt from a graveside and wraps it in his red bandanna. Why are both the dirt and the bandanna significant? What does the granddaughter do with them at the end of the film?

  13. Can you tell from the final scene if David renounced his activism when he left Spain? (Think about the people gathered around his grave.)

Over-all question:

What seem to be the major sources of conflict between the P.O.U.M. and the other leftist, Republican forces in the Catalonian area?

If David had been a real person, do you think he would have ever regretted going to Spain to fight in the Civil War? Why?