Siete días de enero begins in a documentary style, with news reels and on-screen text outlining the events which are about to be dramatized in the film. It may seem like a strange choice, telling the audience the important points beforehand, but in reality this would have been for contemporary Spanish audiences little more than a quiet reminder of what happened just two years previous to the film being originally released in 1979.
For someone like myself, who was unaware of events, the introduction alone was an eye opener, and the subsequent retelling of events in narrative form proved to be very powerful.
Screened in a grainy print, the feel of the late 1970s was present from the start. We are introduced to those who were on the right of Spanish political feeling at a family wedding – clearly wealthy, well-connected families, including the church and the military. The opposition voice is provided by union workers and leaders, together with the solicitors representing them. Their family is the collective here, we don’t see them at home in domestic situations, but with colleagues and comrades.
The sympathies of director Juan Antonio Bardem (himself a Communist) are unequivocal, and although we see why the younger right wing protagonists act in the way they do, our sympathies are with the socialists who are the victims of outrageous violence, a violence which proved to be the catalyst for significant change in Spanish politics.
I was aware of the post-Franco regime change but not of the details, and although some of the roles are played by non-professional or apparently first-time actors, I found this to be a very moving and powerful film.