On July 17 1936 civil war broke out in Spain, in the height of summer when the wealthy middle classes, the bourgeoisie, would holiday. It’s in one of these holiday destinations, just outside of Barcelona, where LAS LARGAS VACACIONES DEL 36 (LONG VACATIONS OF 36) takes place. What starts off as confused hearsay and rumours of the Moors attacking soon becomes a realisation that Spain is at war with itself. Political ideology and family commitments are pushed into knife edge territory as the impressionable, privileged children and scared parents try to remain neutral to the conflict, trapped in their holiday idyll.
Shown on its original 35mm print, LAS LARGAS crackled with warmth and somehow excused its dated mode of storytelling. I couldn’t help thinking that a more up to date method of projection might not have been so kind.
a strong, character driven, episodic narrative grants an insight into the effects of such a potent war
LAS LARGAS is set in an ancient little town built in the hills, the streets winding up hillsides made of old rock, surrounded by lush green trees. No matter how beautiful it may be, the village provides little emotional or spiritual respite from the war that rages just miles away in the capital. Behind closed doors, blood ties are broken by bullets and by ideological alliances. A wealthy shop owner’s family is put at risk by the arrival of his fascist brother and wife, who they hide in a bricked up cubby hole in the garage. Meanwhile, news of loved ones killed on the front is commonplace, and as the years play out we see families come to terms with lost brothers and sons.
As LAS LARGAS goes on, the emphasis turns the poverty these people suffer. Bread is gold dust, cut into small enough chunks so that a family of six might enjoy it in stony silence. At one point the shop owner and his fascist brother get into a fight with one of the more staunch anarchist men of the village. It is a clumsy, shameful scuffle, horribly realistic and ungraceful; and all over a chicken or two. It’s in this stumbling moment in the rain that the the impact of the war hits home hardest.
In its original 35mm print LAS LARGAS crackled with warmth… a more up to date method of projection might not have been so kind.
LAS LARGAS has not aged well and technically seems a little messy, though its strong, character driven, episodic narrative grants an insight into the effects of such a potent war, both social and spiritual, that a film set in war rooms or on the frontline could not.