Monday, December 10, 2012

SCN--Gerardo Herrero's FROZEN SILENCE explores Franco's "Blue Division" in WWII

TrustMovies is very glad that Richard Peña, the FSLC's about-to-retire head of program-ming, introduced the film FROZEN SILENCE (Silencio en la nieve) at its single Spanish Cinema Now screening last Friday night, for he gave the audience a quick and very helpful understan-ding of what the Franco-inspired Blue Division of World War II was all about. Made up of both conscripts and volunteers (the latter of whom often had relatives imprisoned by Franco, so they hoped their service might help arrange a release), this Blue Division fought along side of the Nazis against the Russians on the eastern front of the war.

Some of these volunteers no doubt had Socialist sympathies, having fought against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. But here they are now, fighting for the great Dictator of Germany at the behest of the Little Dictator of Spain. Talk about unwanted ironies. Directed by famed producer and occasional director Gerardo Herrero (shown at left), with an adaptation from Nicolás Saad of the novel by Ignacio del Valle, the movie is an impressive feat production-wise, set as it is in a snowy semi-fortress where the German and Spanish soldiers sit in the midst of the local Russians they have semi-conquered. Betrayal, or at least the threat of it, is everywhere in this movie, giving the film a queasy, uneasy quality almost from first frame to last.

So, when early on, a soldier's corpse is discovered amidst some horses (above) frozen into the snowbanks, another clever soldier (he's a former detective) surmises that the man was dead before he froze. Further investigation leads to the discovery of words from a children's song carved into his chest. Nasty. Soon another, similarly carved corpse (below) turns up.

Movie murder-mysteries set amidst the military happen along every decade or so (Night of the Generals is one of the earlier that I recall) and they are often of more than average interest because of their onion-like appeal: one layer of mystery inside another layer of military. Frozen Silence goes them one better by placing its story inside a military situation rife with several extra layers of unrest and suspicion.  There is even a game of "roulette" that figures prominently in the plot -- and no, it is not the Casino Royale type but rather that of The Deer Hunter.

Drawbacks to the film includes a cast in which several of the actors bear too much similarity to each other, making immediate differen-tiation sometimes a problem. Lead actors Juan Diego Botto and Carmelo Gómez, both seen from time to time in this yearly series, could easily come from the same genetic pool, and certain other actors, during their prime scene or at their revelatory moment, may have you exclaiming, "Oh, it's him! -- followed by an immediate, "Wait a minute: Who is he exactly?" Everyone appearing constantly in military uniform (except of course, when they semi-strip for a love scene) doesn't do a lot for differentiation, either.

But these are minor quibbles. For the most past Frozen Silence succeeds twice over -- giving us a most interesting slice of Spanish wartime/political history, along with a pretty good mystery. Though its one playdate in the series has come and gone, you can check out what else is available over the coming week in Spanish Cinema Now by clicking here.

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