The Spanish Earth (1937) - full transcript

This documentary tells of the struggles during the Spanish Civil War. It deals with the war at different levels: from the political level, at the ground military level focusing on battles in Madrid and the road from Madrid to Valencia, and at the support level. With the latter, a key project was building an irrigation system for an agricultural field near FuentedueƱa so that food could be grown to feed the soldiers.

This Spanish earth
is dry and hard.

And the faces of the men who work that
earth are hard and dry from the sun.

This worthless land
with water will yield much.

For fifty years we wanted to irrigate
but they held us back.

Now we will bring water to it to raise
food for the defenders of Madrid.

The village of Fuentedue?a,
where fifteen hundred people live

and work the land
for the common good.

It is good bread
stamped with the Union label.

But there is only
enough for the village.

Irrigating the waste land
of the village

can give ten times
as much grain for bread,

as well as potatoes,
wine and onions for Madrid.

The village is on the Tajo river

and the main highroad that is the life
line between Valencia and Madrid.

All food for Madrid
comes on this road.

To win the war the rebel troops
must cut this road.

They plan the irrigation
of the dry fields.

They go to trace the ditch.

This is the true face of men
going into action.

It is a little different from any
other face that you will ever see.

Men cannot act before the camera
in the presence of death.

The villagers in Fuentedue?a
hear this noise and say...

"our guns".

The frontline curves north
to Madrid.

These were the doors of houses
that are empty now.

Those who survived the bombardment
bring them to reinforce the new trenches.

When you are fighting
to defend your country,

war, as it lasts,
becomes an almost-normal life.

You eat, and drink, and sleep,
and read the papers.

The loudspeaker of the People's Army.
It has a range of two kilometers.

When these men started for the lines
three months ago,

many of them held a rifle
for the first time.

Some did not even know
how to reload.

Now they are instructing
the new recruits how to take down

and reassemble a rifle.

This is the salient

driven into Madrid itself when
the enemy took the University City.

After repeated counter-attacks
they are still in the "Casa de Vel?zquez",

the palace on the left
with the pointed towers,

and in the ruined Clinical Hospital.

The bearded man is
Commander Mart?nez de Arag?n.

Before the war
he was a lawyer.

He was a brave
and skillful commander,

and he died in the attack
on the "Casa del Campo"

on the day we filmed
the battle there.

The rebels try
to relieve the Clinic.

Juli?n, a boy from the village,
writes home:

"Papa, I will be there in three days.

Tell our mother".

The troops are called together.

The company is assembled to elect
representatives to attend the big meeting

for celebrating the union
of all the militia regiments

into the new brigades
of the People's Army.

Enrique "Lister",
a stonemason from Galicia.

In six months of fighting he rose from a
simple soldier to the command of a division.

He's one of the most brilliant
young soldiers of the Republican Army.


one of the first commanders
of the Fifth Regiment.

He talks of the Army of the People.

How they are fighting
for Spanish democracy

and for the Government
they themselves have chosen.

Fighting together we shall win
a new strong Spain.

Jos? D?az,

he used to work twelve hours
a day as a typesetter

before he became a member
of the Spanish Parliament.

Gustav Regler,

one of the fine
writers of Germany,

who came to Spain
to fight for his ideals.

He was gravely wounded
in June.

Regler praises the unity
of the People's Army.

The defense of Madrid
will remind men always

of their loyalty and courage.

The most famous woman in Spain
today is speaking.

They call her "La Pasionaria".

She is not a romantic beauty,
nor any Carmen.

She's the wife
of a poor miner of Asturias.

But all the character of the
new Spanish woman is in the voice.

"Comrades of the 12th Flag,"

"Jos? Leiva speaking. Do you know me?
I'm among my brothers of The People's Army..."

"...where I've been given an excellent treatment".

"Here you can't see the beastly
treatment we are given in those lines".

Living in the cellars of that ruined
building are the enemy.

They are Moors and Civil Guards.

They are brave troops or they would not have
held out after their position is hopeless.

But they are professional soldiers
fighting against the people in arms,

trying to impose the will of the military
on the will of the people,
and the people hate them,

for without their tenacity and the
constant aid of Italy and Germany,

the Spanish revolt would have ended
six weeks after it began.

This battalion goes on leave,

and Juli?n, who is with them,
has three days leave to the village.

The Duke of Alba's Palace
is destroyed by rebel bombardment.

Treasures of Spanish art are carefully
salvaged by government militiamen.

Madrid, by its position,
is a natural fortress,

and each day the people
make its defences more impregnable.

You stand in line all day
to buy food for supper.

Sometimes the food runs out
before you reach the door.

Sometimes a shell falls
near the line

and at home they wait and wait,

and no one brings back
anything for supper.

Unable to enter the town,
the enemy try to destroy it.

This is a man who had
nothing to do with war.

A book-keeper on his way to his office
at eight o'clock in the morning.

So now they take
the book-keeper away.

But not to his office
or to his home.

The Government urges all civilians
to evacuate Madrid.

But "where will we go?"

"Where can we live?"

"What can we do for a living?"

"I won't go. I'm too old".

But we must keep the children
off the street,

except when there is need
to stand in line.

Recruiting is speeded up
by the bombardment.

Every useless killing
angers the people.

Men from all businesses,
professions and trades

enlist in the Republican Army.

Meanwhile, in Valencia,
the President...

Juli?n catches a ride on an empty truck
and comes home sooner than he expected.

Juli?n drills the village boys in the evening,
when they come back from the fields.

In Madrid, a future shock battalion
of bullfighters,

football players and athletes
is drilling.

They say the old goodbyes
that sound the same in any language.

She says she'll wait.
He says that he'll come back.

He knows she'll wait. Who knows
for what the way the shelling is.

Nobody knows if he comes back.

"Take care of the kid", he says.
"I will", she says and knows she can't.

They both know that
when they move you out in trucks,

it's to a battle.

Death comes each morning
to these people of the town,

sent from the hills
two miles away.

The smell of death is acrid
high-explosive smoke and blasted granite.

Why do they stay?
They stay because this is their city.

These are their homes. Here is
their work. This is their fight.

The fight to be allowed
to live as human beings.

Boys look for bits of shell fragment
as they once gathered hill stones.

So the next shell finds them.

The German artillery has increased
their allowance for battery today.

Before, death came
when you were old or sick,

but now it comes to all this village.

High in the sky
and shining silver

it comes to all who have
no place to run, no place to hide.

Three "Junkers" planes did this.

The Government pursuit-planes
shot one "Junkers" down.

I can't read German either.

These dead came
from another country.

They signed to work in Ethiopia,
the prisoners said.

We took no statements from the dead but
all the letters we read were very sad.

The Italians lost more killed,
wounded and missing

in this single battle of Brihuega
than in all the Ethiopian war.

The rebels attack
the Madrid-Valencia road again.

They've crossed the Jarama river
and try to take the Arganda bridge.

Troops are rushed from the North
to the counter-attack.

The village works
to bring the water.

They arrive at the Valencia road.

The infantry in the assault,
where cameras need much luck to go.

The slow, heavy-laden,
undramatic movement forward.

The men in echelon,
in columns of six.

In the ultimate loneliness
of what is known as contact,

where each man knows there is only
himself and five other men,

and before them
all the great unknown.

This is the moment that
all the rest of war prepares for,

when six men go forward into death

to walk across a stretch of land

and by their presence on it prove


The counter-attack
has been successful.

The road is free.

Six men were five.
Then four were three.

But these three stayed, dug in
and held the ground,

along with all the other fours
and threes and twos

that started out as sixes.

The bridge is ours,...

the road is saved.

The men who never fought before,
who were not trained in arms,

who only wanted work and food,

fight on...

Subtitles by:
OZY (2006)