The best political film ever made begins with fifteen unforgettable minutes. This beginning corresponds to a long shot over the Castile mountain range that stops facing the huge cross, part of the monument in the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen). The following shots are different approaches to the monument and its gigantic, horrible, stone men, then homing in on the darkness of a catacomb. Again the axis is a cross and the shot reveals the tomb of the recently deceased Spanish dictator, Francisco Franco.
Immediately afterwards we are driving on the Barcelona highways as a camera films unmistakably residential buildings in detail. The rapid pulse of Carlos Santos music begins. We emerge into the street from an underground parking area in 1976 on a Catalonian afternoon. An aerial view of Barcelona and then back to the point of view from the car. We drive to the nucleus of a street protest. Slowly the people are taking over the street. The pulse of the music and the editing is constant, and by constant repetition the film generates an "in crescendo" atmosphere that advances from the streets, with flags unfurled, the protest marches in Barcelona and Madrid; the vitality and jolting of the hand held camera in 8 and 16 mm. with fictional fragments and the marches as the production. The intensity increases. The masses advance, uniformly and defiantly down the Ramblas. Their unmistakable cry blends with the repetitive music creating a homogeneous and coherent sound. They are chanting the slogan of resistance: "The people united will never be vanquished" (El pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido). Total cinema. A mass meeting in a stadium. An abrupt end. The fighting in the streets gives way to a political discussion. The first table. As if by design, and seemingly attracted like a magnet the camera gives us a close up of Felipe Gonzalez, charismatic and clear-thinking, at a round table of socialists and communists, six years before he came into power.
Informe general (A General Report on Some Matters of Interest for a Public Screening) was filmed in 1976, a few months after the death of Franco. Spain was coming to the end of the tunnel of dictatorship, torn in different directions by contradictions within the regime, the beginning of participation by the people, the iron-clad structures of Franco's adherents ("the bunker" which dominated the armed forces and the "Consejo del Reino"), the king's slow move towards a democratic path, and the discussions and lucidity and intelligence of political leaders that insist on unity to reach a democratic and free solution. Portabella centres in on this lucidity, whose greatest virtue, at the time, was the acknowledgement of an uncertain correlation of forces in the political arena, the need to arouse and conquer the masses that had been sedated by forty years under the Franco regime, and the search for common denominators as a first priority. The demonstrations generated the conditions and changed the margins of possibilities; the political movements advanced through consensus and went on to conquer. In the streets, peaceful protests, bloody repression (such as the Vitoria-Gasteiz strike where the Guardia Civil entered the church of San Francisco in Vitoria using tear gas and killed those fleeing from the gas; the film shows us the protests after this massacre that finally went against the continuist president, Carlos Arias Navarro), attacks and an increase in violence. Informe General presents the conquest of democracy, bringing to light the discussions centred on one solitary question: How do you go from a dictatorship to a democratic state? These talks are held by different groups in different settings, coherent with the dramatic feeling of the moment. The groups are made up of the most important politicians with a common denominator: a total break with the dictatorship and a necessarily democratic, free platform for all peoples and nationalities. These politicians will later be the ones to carry out the transition and set up a democracy. Included are leftist parties (socialists, communists, Marxist-Leninists), workers unions (Comisiones Obreras, Unión General de Trabajadores, Unión Sindical Obrera), workers movements, representatives of the different nationalities that make up Spain, catholic republicans, monarchists, exiles. A heterogeneous, secular, progressive Spain against the traditionally dark, reactionary uniformity.
The result is a political-cinematographic logic that synthesizes the most perfect narrative path as a bridge towards the future: the perfection of the beauty of Salome as sung by Montserrat Caballé.
Demonstrating this reality and the commitment of the work as part of the fight, make Informe General something genuinely useful. But what makes this film perfect is its cinematic conscience and its constant discourse in respect to its phenomenon, in this framework and with the aforementioned ends.
Through his cinematographic discourse, Portabella makes us see a political common denominator. There is never a moment in the film that does not respond to a coherent setting with the fact that it is a movie and, in addition, in all senses, also an alternative. It is as if the cinematographic language were part of the fight for freedom. The conscience of an artist. A year later, Portabella was elected as a legislative representative and he participated in the creation of a new Spanish era. Subsequently he was twice elected as a legislator in the Catalonian Parliament. Informe General sets the stage, in every sense, for the greatest Spanish republican ideals in favour of both tolerance and diversity. A film that maintains that politics (as Ortega Gasset once said) is "painting attractive and animated horizons".