Pilar is a headstrong and commanding woman, a born leader but also a kind of new mother for Maria (played by Ingrid Bergman), a rape victim rescued by the rebels. All this allowed Katina Paxinou to create a character who can be tender and loving but is also a true force of nature, a woman who loves to give a loud laugh, who can fight as easily as any man and who will not be intimidated by anyone. Before the character of Pilar even enters the first time, the rebels talk about her and say that she ‘fights like a bull’. And when Katina Paxinou finally appears, she does her best to create one of the most extraordinary, original and impressing characters ever seen on the screen – everything by her is done wonderfully to craft a woman who, as she says it herself, ‘would have made a good man.’
But the rebels in the mountains don’t only have to fight against the enemies outside – they also have trouble in the group: Pablo, the leader and also Pilar’s husband has become ‘lazy, a drunkard and a coward’ (the words of Pilar) and they don’t trust him anymore. So Pilar takes over the control of the group, telling Pablo ‘You understand now who commands? I command.’
But apart from being strong and determined, Pilar also has a soft side. She tries to bring Robert (an American fighter) and Maria together, always feeling like a mother to Maria and watching Robert very carefully. Katina Paxinou’s most impressive scene comes when she tells Robert and Maria that ‘Many things tire me. And one of them is to be old and ugly.’ She tells the two how she has spent her life being ugly, ‘how it is to be ugly all your life and to feel in here that you’re beautiful.’ The strength of this scene comes from the fact that Pilar may not be a conventional beauty but she is still such a fascinating personality that it is completely believable when she adds that, despite her looks, many men have loved her.
Unfortunately, Katina Paxinou loses a lot of her impact on the story in the second half of the movie in which she is never really again put in the spotlight. Her wonderful voice makes some voice-over monologues extremely memorable but apart from this, she sadly never impresses as much again as she did in the first half of the story. Still, Katina Paxinou’s work is still extremely powerful and completely one-of-a-kind.