Director: Vicente Aranda
Vicente Aranda's big-budget omnibus, centering on female soldiers during the Spanish Civil War, has all the winning ingredients: perennially controversial history, spellbinding visuals and polished production. Maria, a wide-eyed young nun who is forced to flee her Barcelona convent by the impending arrival of revolutionary anarchists, seeks refuge in a brothel. Zealous freedom fighter Pilar press-gangs some of the women into the organisation of Free Women and Maria is swept up in the tumult.
The anarchists march on the town of Saragossa and the horrors of war hit home in cinematic tableaus of devastation and death reminiscent of Goya's most powerful drawings. Grisly combat sequences are leavened with comedy dwelling on the theme of sexual frustration. Aranda indulges his whimsical directorial style in a slapstick collective urination scene, and an hysterical episode when one of the female troops comes to believe that demons have possessed her. Dramatically illuminated countrysides and city streets, impeccable attention to period detail and a rousing orchestral score round out Libertarias' abundant appeal.