One of Resnais’s most stylistically accessible and politically committed films, La Guerre est finie tells of an aging Spanish leftist (Montand) who travels between Paris and Spain as part of a clandestine group dedicated to the overthrow of the Franco regime. Torn emotionally between his long established mistress (Thulin) and a young student (Bujold), and challenged by younger revolutionaries to realize that the center of the political struggle has moved away from him, he is forced to make choices about his life and his political ideals. A series of premonitions told in “flash forward” near the film’s conclusion make powerful statements about memory and aspiration, commitment and faith.
Resnais made a number of creative documentaries on art in the late 1940s. This small but powerful film opens with a photograph of the destroyed town of Guernica, a casualty of the Spanish Civil War, and uses fragments of Picasso’s epic painting, together with other works by the artist and a passionate poetic text by Paul Éluard, to create a moving protest against war and a hymn to the possibilities of humanity. Characteristic elements of Resnais’s style are already in evidence in this early work: the use of editing to project a new vision of reality and the subtle and surprising interplay of images with a literary text.