Star rating - 6/10
The period following the Spanish Civil War, with its systematic and brutal persecution of anyone who opposed the victorious dictator General Franco, is a fascinating one. La Voz Dormida (The Sleeping Voice), being shown as part of the Cornerhouse annual !Viva! festival of Spanish and Latin American film, deals with this period of Spanish history, but not in a completely satisfactory way.
It follows the lives of two sisters, Hortensia who is in prison for her commitment to the Communist cause, and who has to endure the harsh conditions there whilst pregnant; and Pepita who does not consider herself to be political, but is nevertheless drawn into the struggle via the people she loves. Pepita works as a maid for a doctor, who is aware of the situation of her sister, but whose wife does not approve of any Communist activity owing to her own losses in the Civil War. Pepita supports her elder sister as best she can by visiting her, and by smuggling messages to her brother in law, who as a fellow Communist is in hiding, with a serious gunshot wound. Whilst helping out, she falls in love with another Communist and her life's path is set. The lead roles are played very convincingly by Inma Cuesta and Maria Leon, and both actresses portray their characters with conviction and talent.
But the film has more of the feel of a TV mini-series to it, and is overly romanticised and at the same time far too graphic in terms of the torture meted out to anyone the regime considers to be dangerous. It is based on a bestselling novel by Dulce Chacon, which I haven't read so cannot comment on how faithful this adaption is. My bet is that this script does not do the original work much justice, as it is too obvious, and signposts far too much of what could be left to the viewer to deduce. It's a shame as it could have been fabulous in the hands of a better director like Ken Loach. Now he would really have done justice to this important and shocking subject matter.