May 16, 1983 12:00 PM

Winner of the 1982 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, this movie may not make much sense to those unversed in the history of the Spanish Civil War, but it is beautiful to see. The background: In 1936 the democratically elected government of Spain was overthrown by right-wing General Francisco Franco, whose totalitarian rule survived until he died in 1975. Many Spaniards (and others who fought with the Republicans) vowed never to set foot in Spain again until Franco was dead. This movie is about one returning Spaniard, a Nobel Prize winner for literature, played by Antonio Ferrandis. He arrives in his hometown of Gijón, a lovely port city, after collecting the prize. He visits an old sweetheart and rekindles their romance. He sees a friend, a doctor, and reveals a terrible secret—the reason for his return to Spain. This small-scale yet highly charged personal drama, played out against a political backdrop, is plainly shot and plainly acted, which is its strength: Ferrandis walks with a poise that dignifies the whole movie. The farewell scene between him and his doctor friend is touching, as is the parting of the lovers. At first the sound track is obtrusive; it seems determined to manipulate your every emotion, with either Cole Porter’s Begin the Beguine, the lovers’ favorite song when they were young, or Johann Pachelbel’s majestic Canon, a kind of elegy for time gone by. Still, the music grows on you. So does the film. (In Spanish with English subtitles) (PG)

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