“No Gods-No Masters.”
The Spanish film Libertarias examines the Spanish Civil War though the fate of the Free Women (Mujeres Libres) of Spain. During the Spanish Civil War over 30,000 female anarchists were Mujeres Libres, and many fought and died for the revolution. The action begins in July 1936. Anarchists overrun Barcelona, and in the process, a Catholic nun, Maria (Ariadna Gil) leaves the convent with orders from the mother superior to return home. Maria takes shelter in a brothel, but this hiding place is short lived when female CNT anarchists arrive and liberate the prostitutes announcing that they no longer have to submit to the “sexual voracity of strangers.”
Some of the prostitutes join forces with the anarchists, and Maria–who isn’t adjusting well to being on the outside of the convent walls–goes along. To fiery anarchist Pilar (Ana Belen), Maria is a “victim of the clergy”, and she takes Maria along with the group. While the women join Durruti’s Column of over 3,000-armed anarchists ready to spread the revolution to the rest of Spain, they also clearly maintain their autonomy. Initially the women fight with male anarchists, but when Buenaventura Durruti (Hector Colome) decides that the town of Zaragoza is not defensible, the women stay to fight on the front lines.
The female fighters are a motley crew, but they aren’t afraid to fight and are willing to die for their cause. With the exception of Maria, the women are peasants, and they’ve all suffered experiences that ensure their dedication to the revolution. The female anarchists are also boldly sexually liberated, and again this is another issue Maria cannot understand or accept. But as misfortunes come their way, and the women decide to stick together–no matter what–Maria finds herself morally aligned with the cause. At the same time, she continues to seek out a patriarchal authority figure in an ex-priest-turned-freedom-fighter.
While the women march to war, it’s obvious that they really don’t grasp what’s in store for them. One scene depicts them playfully tossing a pumpkin around until they receive a harsh reminder of their surroundings. The film’s brutal, searing conclusion allows for no sentimentality, and by its very harshness, somehow the ending pulls the entire film into sobering perspective. From director Vicente Aranda, Libertarias is in Spanish with English subtitles.