WAR IS OVER, THE (la guerre est finie)

(director: Alain Resnais; screenwriter: Jorge Semprún; cinematographer: Sacha Vierny; editors: Eric Pluet/Ziva Postec; music: Giovanni Fusco; cast: Yves Montand (Diego Mora), Ingrid Thulin (Marianne), Geneviève Bujold (Nadine Sallanches), Jean Dasté (Chief), Dominique Rozan (Jude), Jean-François Rémi (Juan), Jean Bouise (Ramon); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Anatole Dauman/Gisèle Rebillon/Catherine Winter; Images Entertainment; 1966-France-in French with English subtitles)

“Remains tense throughout.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Alain Resnais (“Stavisky”/”Providence”/”Je t’aime, Je t’aime”) shoots an almost conventional linear (though at times interweaving flash-forward and flashbacks) black and white political/psychological drama in a formalist style radically differing from his New Wave roots; it’s all talk and little action, but it does remain tense throughout. It’s written by the Spanish exile and Buchenwald concentration camp survivor Jorge Semprún. Resnais keeps it as a meditation on exploring the doubts and insecurities of an idealistic activist, who after 25 years of struggle against Franco is disillusioned with how little has been accomplished to bring down the dreaded regime and how little we have learned from history. The story covers three days in the life of the leftist activist, and succeeds in switching moods from the troubled worldly stage to the agent’s mental state of angst. Unfortunately it’s largely monotonous and dreary, which is probably the reason it didn’t do a good box office despite critical approval.

Diego Mora (Yves Montand) is an aging and tired Spanish exile from the fascist Franco regime who has been living in the suburbs of Paris for a long time, where he’s a professional revolutionist active in the overthrow of Franco’s regime. He’s returning from Madrid to France carrying a false passport when he’s stopped at the border. The suspicious police call the Paris number he gives them and Nadine Sallanches (Geneviève Bujold), a student in the revolutionary movement, backs his story and enables him to freely cross the border. In Paris, Diego learns of a wave of arrests in Madrid of his comrades and that one of the agents, Andres, doesn’t show for a meeting with a contact at the Botanical Gardens and another agent Juan (Jean-François Rémi) returned to Madrid after dropping him off in Paris. When Diego expresses concern to his elderly central committee command group about Juan, they chew him out for being too worried and continue their plans for a general strike in Spain by using another agent (Jean Bouise) instead of the doubting Diego to make contact with Juan.

Diego will meet Nadine for the first time, and will spend a brief time making love to her before rushing back to his long-suffering divorcee girlfriend Marianne (Ingrid Thulin). He finally decides to get out of this business and return to Spain with Marianne and lead a normal life under his real name, but is called back into service when his agent replacement dies of a heart attack. Before going on his final mission Diego also gets chewed out by Nadine’s radical French student friends, who scheme to terrorize tourists in Spain with bombs and he disagrees with such violent tactics.

The middle-aged Diego ultimately chooses business woman Marianne and stability over the fiery youthful Nadine’s unstable radical activist lifestyle and prospects for a more active revolutionary life, but his luck might be running out as this final mission has things go wrong almost from the onset.

The War Is Over Poster