by Rocio Caceres (7/23/2020)

Sordo or The Silent War (English title) is a Spanish movie released in 2019 and directed by Alfonso Cortés-Cavanillas. Sordo’s genre falls between a few categories like drama, western, thriller, and deaf/hard hearing. Sordo translates to deaf from Spanish but titled to English as The Silent War.

Sordo’s story is based on the comic by David Muñoz and Rayco Pulido, published in 2008. It sets in October of 1944, years after the Spanish Civil War. Sordo tells the story of the escape of Anselmo Roja – a guerrillero – from the Spanish army. Anselmo is a hiding member – Maquis – of a group of guerrillas who fights against Francoism after the Civil War in Spain. The guerrillas start an operation to go against the dictatorship of Franco. This operation is called in Spanish as Operacion Reconquista (Reconquest Operation.) Anselmo and his comrades tried to blow up a bridge as part of Operation Reconquista, but this action ends badly on Anselmo. He becomes deaf when something goes wrong with the explosion. Anselmo fight until his last minutes for his life having his deafness as his enemy.

The mission of Operacion Conquista was to invade Spain with an army made up of a thousand republican soldiers exiled in France after the civil war. Months after the operation started groups of guerrilleros crossed the French border with the aim of carrying out sabotage missions.

The film starts on October 8th when the capture of Sargent Castillo and the official Jaime by the leader and second on the command of the Guerrilla Vicente Roig and Anselmo Rojas, respectively. Vicente later frees Castillo to send a message that the Guerrilla is going against Franco but the people. Vicente plans to detonate a bridge as part of his sabotage plant against Franco. The explosion starts before time and many comrades die but only two survive Anselmo and Vicente.  Anselmo escapes but is being chased by the Spanish army led by Captain Bosch; meanwhile, Vicente is arrested and tortured. Unable to hear, Anselmo hides into the woods in his intent to cross the border. A day after running away from the army, Anselmo noticed that his hearing has not come back which makes it difficult running away from the Spanish army.

Anselmo gets to a humble and small cabin where he found a woman. He askes her for food and promises to pay. Unable to hear, he requests the woman to only replay by shaking her head as no or yes to his questions. While he is at the cabin with the woman, the official Jaime arrives and questions the woman of seeing a man around the area. She denies seeing someone while Anselmo hides in another room. The official leaves and Anselmo attempts to leave after him, but the official comes back and sees him. The official shoots the woman accusing her of being an accomplice of the Guerrilla. Anselmo in his deafness only sees the official yelling and the woman falling dead. The captain Bosch arrives at the scene but unable to catch Anselmo again they go after him on horses. Anselmo who does not notice they are close and following him keeps escaping until he sees a bullet crossing very close to him.

A couple of days after the persecution, Darya Segeevich, a cruel Russian mercenary, is hired by the Coronel Balenciaga and the Coronel Cortez to aid Bosch in the persecution of Anselmo. The coronels laugh of her abilities as an expert killer that ends kill by her after meeting her. Meanwhile, Anselmo arrives at Rosa’s house, Vicente’s wife. She tells Anselmo that Vicente got captured and the Spanish Army will not stop chasing him. Anselmo leaves the house and keeps his way away from the army. Darya and Bosch meet and start their plan to persecute and kill Anselmo. Darya looks for Anselmo at Rosa’s house. She demands her to tell her where Anselmo is. Rosa denies knowing where Anselmo is, this infuriates Darya. Anselmo sees from far Darya and Rosa. He runs to help Rosa but ends up seeing Darya raping Rosa with a gun. He attempts to attack Darya to save Rosa but cows at the last minute and runs away frustrated and angry. Anselmo gets to the river where he finds Sargent Castillo. Castillo tries to help him but he unable to hear what Castillo is telling him shoots Castillo and kills him. When Castillo falls dead Anselmo notices Castillo has a symbol of being a guerrillero. Anselmo feels desperate and frustrated for his deadness runs away again to Rosa’s house. When gets to Rosa’s house, she tells him that operation has failed. He cries on Rosa’s arms and tells her he is scared. Anselmo sleeps over Rosa’s house but leaves after a nightmare. The next morning, Darya finds Anselmo and shoots him from far but fails. Anselmo tricks her with one of the soldiers that came with her, then gets to kill her from behind.

Captain Bosch sees Darya was killed then goes to Rosa’s and tells her that Vicente will be free. Later Rosa meets Anselmo in the woods and tell him that Vicente will be free and him to take him to France. The next day Anselmo goes to pick up Vicente where Rosa told Vicente will be. Anselmo sees Vicente but paranoid about being betrayal from his friend shoots and kill him. Anselmo cries over Vicente’s body. Anselmo walks to his fate and gets lost in the woods. The winter comes and Anselmo is found dead on November 8th on the snowy mountains.

Anselmo during the scape fights against his own demons. He fears for his life and being in his new condition running away is more difficult. His first instinct to be able to understand and communicate with others and not letting them know his deafness is asking everyone to tell and sign by shaking their heads yes and no as answers. He only confesses Rosa and the lady who helped him at the beginning of the film of his deafness. Anselmo finds himself lost unable to know what to do next to save his life and continuing with it. He has already killed two comrades, Castillo and Vicente. This makes Anselmo feel even worst and frustrated about his deafness. Anselmo at the end, lost in his thought walks aimlessly until death finds him.

The film touches important aspects of becoming part of the deaf community. The protagonist – second on command – have to adapt to a new whole world where he is not anymore the person who fights for the people now he is part of the people and needs help to survives from his own demons and adapt to his new condition.

Adaptation and learning to live a new world are complicated but not impossible. What the film shows are the difficulties of soldiers have when must go to war and fight for their life but are unable to hear anything and communicate with others is a second battle and the isolation becomes your new world. The film tells us how reality looks like when you have a new condition.


Cortez-Cavanillas, A. (2019). Sordo (The Silent War). Netflix.


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