Seven Days in January

English Title: Seven Days in January

Original Title: 7 días de enero

Country of Origin: Spain, France

Studio: Goya Films, Les Films des deux mondes

Director: Juan Antonio Bardem

Producer(s): Serafín García Trueba, Alain Coiffier , Roberto Bodegas

Screenplay: Gregorio Morán, Juan Antonio Bardem

Cinematographer: Leopoldo Villaseñor

Editor: Guillermo S Maldonado

Runtime: 157 minutes

Genre: Political Drama

Language: Spanish

Starring/Cast: Fernando Sánchez Polack, Virginia Mataix, José Manuel Cervino, Manuel Egea

Year: 1979

Volume: Spanish / Portuguese

Seven Days in January begins with a wedding which places Luis Maria and his social group amongst the conservative sector of Spanish society: in favour of the Franco regime and uneasy about the changes being effected during the transition to democracy.  The situations narrated venture into the workplace of labour lawyers and the public ‘street’, in which the protests of a group of workers reflect that the struggles of the time (amnesty for social and political prisoners, improvement of working and social conditions) were supported with the legal expertise of a handful of lawyers linked to the Spanish Communist Party. The voice of the television receiver intermittently contextualizes the tensions of these years of change, criss-crossed by the murders committed by far-right groups in parallel with the radicalism of left-wing terrorist groups such as the one that carried out the abduction of Lt Villaescusa (the GRAPO).  The historicist fiction reaches its apex when, as the workers’ strike continues, the right-wing youth group to which Luis María belongs prepares and executes the murder of several leftist lawyers in Atocha Street in Madrid.  Afterwards, Luis María sets off on a fruitless escape to the coast of Murcia. The survivors of the attack relive the event when they confront its perpetrators, which ends with the conviction of the accused in a court of law.  The final images return the viewer to the interchange between the private and the public with the burial of the murdered lawyers accompanied by a massive procession, silent and peaceful.

This film documents the incidents that occurred before and after the murders of the labour lawyers in Atocha Street on 24 January 1977. This type of cinema was new to Bardem – and for Spanish cinema in general. Shortly after the murders occur, he toyed with the idea of representing it in cinema. The title chosen relates, first, to the novel by John Reed, Ten Days That Shook the World (1919), on which Eisenstein based October (1927); and another, to the film by John Frankenheimer Seven Days in May (1964), which was about a military conspiracy fostered by right-wing extremists in the US.
Despite the fact that Bardem declared that it was his intention ‘as a citizen, a film-maker and a communist’ to make this film, the events were not told from the perspective of the victims of the murder but, rather, of those who carried it out: representatives of those groups of the franquista far-right who were unwilling to accept the democratic change that Spain was experiencing, fearing it would result in chaos, as well as in the loss of their influence and control of the state. 
The film shows a typified Francoist society, its attitudes and the social behaviour that it engendered, with considerable differences between the female characters, who represent the two opposing models of the submissive woman and the militant feminist who refuses to conform to the roles assigned to her.
The narration, in a semi-documentary style, and with informative rigour, has a rhythm reminiscent of Fred Zinneman’s The Day of the Jackal (1973).
The main character, Luis María, is a young man who was raised in a family that supported the Franco dictatorship; his use of violence is a symbol of the desperation of his social group as it resists change. Television fulfils the role of narrator and contextualizes the events of the film, demonstrating that Spain’s transition to democracy was not as peaceful as it is often portrayed in historical accounts.  Instead, it was a tense time for a divided society, which was evidenced by the reaction provoked by the film’s release. The objective of this film was a plea for freedom and for peace, as was made clear in its promotional poster: ‘una película contra la violencia y el terrorismo venga de donde venga. Una película sin odio que le hará pensar. No cierre los ojos véala’ (‘A movie against violence and terrorism, whatever its source. A film without hatred that will make you think. Do not close your eyes, see it’).

Author of this review: Magdalena Garrido Caballero