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An eternal revolutionary

Para la guerra / To War Director
Regissør: Francisco Marise
( Cuba/Argentina)

In a Cuba that is slowly moving further and further away from communism, a Cuban veteran is stuck in the past.


Andrés is a Cuban veteran who has never stopped being a soldier. He fought in Angola and Nicaragua, but although his last mission was over more than 30 years ago, he has maintained the soldier's thinking and belief in the cause of communism. And while the enthusiasm for the revolution in the long decades of scarcity and totalitarian rule has faded with many Cubans, and his country is now changing, Andrés is training for a war he is sure will come. By clinging to a past that was never truly glorious, he lives in a world that exists only in his own mind and in the modest apartment in which he lives.

Francisco Marise's first full-length film is a touching portrait of this devoted, aging man, left behind by time and history as an illustration of how the scars of war and the damage of a doctrine unexpectedly appear and can mark a soldier's heart and mind for life.

To live in a distant past

The film borrows the uneventful pace of Andrés' life; time barely moves in his surroundings. He spends his life practicing and performing simple chores in his apartment. He demonstrates his combat skills in front of the camera and becomes a vivid illustration of a soldier's training manual with original instructions on the canvas before each set of combat moves. And while these scenes initially seem quirky, almost surreal, it is the sadness of this man's loneliness and the seriousness of his enthusiasm that soon takes over the atmosphere of the film.

From time to time, Andrés brings up the telephone directory and tries to find old comrades from the missions in Nicaragua. He dials landline numbers from the directory, only to discover that the person he is looking for is dead, or that there is someone with the same name at the other end. The film combines archival footage and sound to create a picture of the world as he experiences it – a distant past, but where he still resides mentally.

The film combines archival footage and sound to create a picture of the world as the main character
see it.

Andrés belongs to a generation and a past Cuba is slowly leaving. And while the country is still an authoritarian state, they look younger with hope for the future. As everywhere else, there are also some who look to the past, but nostalgia is usually an answer for people who feel that they have no use, that they are left behind, or simply unable to cope in today's world. That does not apply to Andrés. The changes in Cuba are happening slowly and are less visible than the changes that other communist countries have undergone in the recent past, and he does not question the changes or his own quality of life. In fact, he does not see the changes and seems very happy with what he has, so he lives rather with a delusion than with the kind of nostalgia one sees in Russia and other countries from the former Communist bloc.

The scars from the war

Andrés is probably marked by the war, and has learned nothing but to live and cheer for the ideas the regime instilled in his mind. He has never found any other meaning in life. He gets one in a way to think Goodbye Lenin!, a 2003 feature film that tells the story of a son whose mother is in a coma at the hospital when the Berlin Wall falls. Afraid that the mother may suffer a fatal shock when she finds out that her beloved East Germany no longer exists, her son strives to preserve the impression that the old regime is still there.

The changes in Cuba are more subtle, but Andrés lives in the same kind of illusion, except that whoever maintains the illusion is himself. To him, the world is just as divided as it was decades ago, and he talks about being hardened to fight against what is harmful to humanity, represented by the non-communist world. It is unclear whether he is living this way because he cannot see the truth in his eyes or if someone has simply forgotten to tell him what the reality actually is. And it is painful to witness this deception and realize that the routines and beliefs are what give life content to a vulnerable man who can hardly find meaning in life in any other way.

Andrés belonging to the generation and a past Cuba is slowly leaving.

The gap between reality and Andrés' life gets even bigger when Fidel Castro dies. Castro's death is announced on television, and Andrés goes to Havana to remember el comandante. The end of Castro's life marks the end of the era that Andrés idealizes, but he returns home with new inspiration to take care of what he considers necessary. We see him talking to a group of veterans who, like him, still believe in the revolution, and the stiff, aging men stand up to a minute's silence in honor of Castro. The only ones left to keep the good fight going are in this room of retirees.

Outside of time and place

For war (Two War) has no spectacular turning points or highlights. It lets the man be who he is, and highlights his combat training by switching between close-ups and total shots while the camera is at rest. These clips, the observational footage of Andrés' everyday life and archival photos, are combined into what could well have been a fiction film. Andrés' reality is in the past, and this past can only be a construction on the canvas.

This bittersweet portrait has observational scenes, but as a whole it is not observant at all. Using the sound and montage of the different types of recordings, the director controls the mood that characterizes the film, building up the feeling of the shifting time Andrés lives in. Time stands still, and still goes. The clock is ticking, Cuba is changing. Andrés' story leaves us with a sense that, in a way, he's already gone, trapped in his own bubble. In fact, he has never really lived in the present at all.


Bianca-Olivia Nita
Bianca-Olivia Nita
Nita is a freelance journalist and critic for Ny Tid.

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