How 'The Endless Trench' Resonates With Life Under Lockdown: 'THR Presents' Q&A With Jon Garano, Aitor Arregi and Jose Mari Goenaga

The three directors explain how their film — about a so-called "mole" who lived in a secret room for more than 30 years, hiding from general/dictator Francisco Franco's regime — has strong parallels with certain current events.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Alex Ritman spoke to Jon Garaño, Aitor Arregi and Jose Mari Goenaga, directors of Spanish drama The Endless Trench (La Trinchera Infinita) in a THR Presents Q&A powered by Vision Media.

During the conversation, the three filmmakers discussed how key themes in their historical drama had — entirely coincidentally — strong parallels with the experiences of many in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting in the mid-1930s amid the rise of dictator Francisco Franco, The Endless Trench follows Higinio (Antonio de la Torre), a Republican who, to avoid reprisals from the brutal Nationalist regime that overthrew the Second Republic during the Spanish Civil War, hides for more than 30 years in a secret room in his home. Pulling together the real-life stories of these so-called “moles” — many of whom only emerged after a government amnesty in 1969 — the film chronicles the growing dependency of Higinio on his endlessly suffering wife, Rosa (Belen Cuesta), their increasingly fraught relationship, and the decades spent in the dark in perpetual fear.

“All of us can feel reflected in these fears,” said Goenage. “Although maybe we haven’t been locked down in a house for 30 years. … But we have felt fear, metaphorically, to close the door, to break up, to leave our jobs.”

Spain’s submission for the 2021 Academy Awards' best international feature category, The Endless Trench first began as an idea following the 2011 documentary 30 Years of Darkness, which was among the first films to shed light on these hidden figures of Spanish history.

“When we watched the film, we almost knew nothing about them, even though we’re from Spain,” added Goenage, who said that, with the exception of a book in the 1970s, almost nothing had been produced tackling the subject. This lack of knowledge, both inside Spain and out, played into their creative hands. But in making The Endless Trench two years ago — before the arrival of the pandemic — they had no idea of the parallels that they would draw with reality when it landed on Netflix in 2020.

The directors all recognized that there was a “very big difference” in the experiences of their central characters and people under government-enforced lockdown, and not just in the length of time spent behind closed doors. “The people outside now are the doctors and nurses — people who are trying to help — and in their case it was just the opposite: people who wanted them to be killed,” said Garaño. But he noted that there were still very close links, especially at the start of the pandemic.

“Many of us weren’t sure what was going on outside, what’s behind this door, what’s happening with this coronavirus?” he added. “In one sense it’s the same with Higinio and Rosa. They didn’t know what was going on — their world had changed and they couldn’t get out of the house. And when you are inside, it’s difficult to have a clear vision of what’s happening.”

Added Arregi: “I think it also speaks about the conflicts, which we can see now, and how people deal with those conflicts. It’s an 80-year-old story, but we think it can have some resonance.”

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