This six-part mini-series takes us to the second half of the sixties in the Spanish province of Basque Country and the period when the separatist organization Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, better known by the acronym ETA, was founded there. Although ETA was actually founded in the late fifties as an organization whose goal was to promote Basque culture and preserve the Basque identity, it soon grew into a militant organization responsible for numerous terrorist attacks and assassinations. For almost half a century, ETA fought with the Spanish government, spreading fear throughout the country, especially in the southern parts of the Basque Country, trying to fight for the independence of the Basque Country until it finally ceased to exist in 2018.
“La Linea invisible” or “The Invisible Line” was conceived and directed by the famous Catalan filmmaker Mariano Barroso, and in parallel we follow the story of the reorganization of ETA into a militaristic organization and the investigation of the secret services that are trying to track down the members. The action starts there in the mid-sixties, while the police look at ETA as a group of harmless kids who paint graffiti on buildings and throw firecrackers. But that will change very soon when the young poet and Basque nationalist Txabi Etxebarrieta (Alex Monner) joins the organization under the influence of his older brother. We get a very good context of the time and the circumstances that led to the radicalization of ETA are correctly presented.
We see that there are numerous organizations in the Basque Country who are furious at the fact that the Francoist government continues to take revenge on this region because it was one of the main strongholds of the Republicans during the civil war. The communist movement was strong in the Basque Country in the 1960s, the trade unions played an important role, and there were also differences of opinion about what ETA should be. Should it continue to be run as a platform for the struggle of the oppressed against the fascists, or should it grow into the struggle of the Basque Country against the centralist government of Spain, and when Txabi becomes one of the key people, they will immediately start looking for ways to show their role.
And how else to present yourself to the public, than by performing a sound action, assassination of some important persons. One of the candidates for this will be Meliton Manzanas (Antonio de la Torre), the head of the secret police known as the Torturer, who “became famous” during the forties as a zealous collaborator of the Gestapo when capturing Jews fleeing from occupied France. In parallel, we follow the stories of the emerging militant wing of ETA and the investigation of a policeman, an ethnic Basque who is actually fighting with all his might against the Basque cause and his people’s struggle for independence. For me, the characters were a bit vague here because while we don’t know who Manzanas really is and what his role was in the police system at the time and throughout history, although it is obvious that his appearance causes fear in everyone, the transformation of Txabi from a shy poet almost into a highway robber and murderer.
Nevertheless, “La linea invisible” offers quite a solid insight into that awkward time. There is also a solid cast led by the excellent De la Torre, and there is also a whole series of young Spanish actors, interestingly, almost none of them are Basque. And while today we imagine ETA as a serious and branched organization that for decades resisted the authorities and successfully hid, carried out attacks and spread fear, at the very beginnings this organization obviously acted in a very different way. We see it practically composed of a few students, young people who themselves do not know what they want, and therefore they are probably not taken seriously. But that’s why Manzanas, who seems to understand what’s coming, and his investigation and attempts to discover the identities of the members while no one thinks they could be a serious problem, is also the most interesting part of the series.