by Alex Jackson Affirmation, if nothing else, that Paul Verhoeven's Blackbook has become the dominant model for World War II pictures, Marie Noëlle and Peter Sehr's Verhoeven-esque The Anarchist's Wife alienated me early on by folding in stock footage to depict both the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War. On some level, I suspect this is a cheapoid strategy enabling the filmmakers to reserve more of their budget for costumes and sets. Whatever its intention, it dehumanizes the characters, translating them and their problems into unthreatening movie terms. This becomes even more explicit in a strange moment where the eponymous heroine Manuela (María Valverde) supplies the soundtrack to a movie she's watching with her daughter that was silenced by a bombing raid. Valverde's classical beauty and the mere way she can model a certain shade of red lipstick appears to be the principal reason for the film's existence--the rest feels like pretext as Manuela's husband Justo (Juan Diego Botto) is captured during the war and put in a concentration camp. He resurfaces in France several years later; Manuela finds him and they reunite, but he's secretly preoccupied with an anti-fascist group planning to overthrow Franco in Spain. There's a good movie in here somewhere, with Justo realigning his allegiances away from his family in their absence and identifying more exclusively as a revolutionary. But Noelle and Sehr seem reluctant to ever make either Manuela or Justo unsympathetic. Justo is never really held accountable for favouring the cause over his wife and family and Manuela is never held accountable for preferring her family to the cause. Noelle and Sehr see Justo's idealism as noble and romantic and Manuela doesn't waver in her devotion to her husband. The throughline between the flaw in the film's first half (said movieness) and the flaw in its second (the lack of any real conflict) suggests that too high a premium was placed on palatability. Indeed, The Anarchist's Wife goes down smooth, but it's not nearly bold enough to produce anything resembling nutritional value.