The Endless Trench: 33 Years in Hiding

"The Endless Trench" is a movie that, in the light of the recent pandemic, produces rather different sensations than it would've done previously. However, in this case, the protagonist is locked in his own house for 33 years.
The Endless Trench: 33 Years in Hiding
Cristina Roda Rivera

Written and verified by the psychologist Cristina Roda Rivera.

Last update: 08 December, 2022

The Endless Trench is an overwhelming journey through the Spanish Civil War and the activities of the so-called moles. After a government amnesty in 1969, a handful of men across Spain came out into the open. They’d been in hiding, often in their own homes, for more than 30 years to avoid reprisals following Franco’s occupation of the country in 1936.

The Endless Trench brings together details of some of the most amazing accounts of these real-life nightmares. Reformulating the hidden story of a so-called ‘mole’ and his wife, who’s suffering deeply from their terrible situation, it’s an excellent story about love as protection against fear.

The movie achieves much of its impact through the two protagonists and the location. It was produced and directed by a team of Basque professionals who were also responsible for films such as Flowers and The Giant. It’s an intense, almost perfect emotional journey about the fear of political repression and human vulnerability, despair, and resistance.

The Endless Trench: from flight to eternal waiting

Virtually all of the physical action takes place in the first 20 minutes of the movie. The camera follows the shrewd leftist politician, Higinio (Antonio de la Torre). He’s loaded, along with other prisoners, onto a Francoist Civil Guard truck.

While one of his companions cries out to one of the guards, Higinio takes the opportunity to jump out of the truck and escape. He’s chased by the civil guards through the Andalusian countryside.

Finally, as night falls, he hides in a deep dark well along with two others. However, these two men are shot from above. Meanwhile, Higinio manages to hide in one of the holes left by the well. Pushing aside the bloodied bodies, he leaves the well the next morning and heads home.

His wife, the seamstress Rosa (Belén Cuesta), is waiting for him there. From thereon in, a profound psychological drama takes place in the stillness and seemingly endless hours. Higinio can see no other way out than to hide under the ground and witness everything that happens in his house like a mole. In fact, he’s like a spectator in his own home but sitting in the worst possible chair.

Tension for the viewer

Although the life of a mole was presumably boring, boredom certainly isn’t a problem for the viewer of this movie.

The main threat comes from Gonzalo (Vicente Vergara), who betrays Higinio to the authorities. In fact, he continues to threaten him throughout the movie, starting with sadistically drawing back the curtains of the house on Rosa while Higinio watches from his hiding place.

Higinio moves to his father-in-law’s house dressed as an older woman, taking advantage of the Easter break. There, he has a much larger space to fully establish himself as a mole on the run from justice. There’s a small bed, some tiny shelves, and a small table.

In a tragicomic sequence that offers a break from the drama, a homosexual couple decides to use Higinio’s father-in-law’s house for their dates, taking advantage of Rosa’s absence for a few months. Upon being discovered by Higinio, a pact is established in which they can see each other at the house in exchange for bringing newspapers and food.

Rosa

Rosaly declares that she wants a child, a demand that’s rather difficult to believe given the circumstances. She’s a firm, devoted, and selfless wife. Her role is complex because her character has several layers. In fact, she’s much more than a woman who helps Higinio hide.

Rosa suddenly has to alter everything her upbringing has prepared her for. She’s forced to reinvent herself as the breadwinner. Belén Cuesta conveys Rosa’s fragility, strength, and commitment as the years go by.

The turning point in Rosa’s life comes with the harassment and rape she suffers from a civil guard. One day, there’s a struggle in which Rosa refuses to establish any contact with him. Higinio, who sees everything through his hiding place, has to contain himself so as not to be discovered.

We see Higinio’s overwhelming frustration as his humiliations pile up. However, when he sees what happened to Rosa, he reacts in a primitive way. He comes out of hiding to have sex with her in an uncomfortable scene that borders on sexual abuse.

When the civil guard returns a few days later, he attacks Rosa and Higinio can’t prevent him from raping her, since his hiding place is in danger of catching fire as his lamp has fallen to the ground. When he finally goes out to help, it’s to kill the civil guard. Nevertheless, he’ll always have doubts as to whether or not he’s the father of Rosa’s child.

hidden man

The power of love

The performances of both protagonists give reality to the story. In addition, the fact that Higinio is a man of traditional values and few words gives a really strong meaning to his role.

Inevitably, most of the action takes place in semi-darkness, sometimes used in contrast to the dazzling Andalusian sun. Much of it occurs through uncertain visions from Higinio’s fearful point of view as, together with the viewer, he tries to figure out what’s going on. This is a strategy that builds both tension and emotion.

Despite the suffering, darkness, and human evil that the movie reflects, The Endless Trench is a positive film. It tells us, without sentimentality, excess, or cliché, that love can be a refuge that lasts for a lifetime.

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