They say that without fear, the possibility of life is endless and overcoming one’s fears can provide a whole new outlook towards life. On the other hand, if one allows these fears to take control, life can spiral down into a dark “endless tench”. With the Spanish War in its backdrop, ‘The Endless Trench‘ fictionally retells the story of a man who hides behind the walls and the floor of his home because of his paralyzing fear of reprisal for his political offenses.
But soon, this temporary hideout turns into a permanent lifestyle that not only affects him but also negatively impacts his family. The entire film walks you through the several stages of his lonely lifestyle and shows how it slowly consumes him. So in the next section, we’ll be further discussing all of these stages and also explain how all of it leads to the film’s conclusion.
Higinio’s Journey Into the Depths of the Trench
The entire runtime of ‘The Endless Trench’ is divided by several cut scenes that mark a milestone in Higinio’s journey in context with the events outside. Each of these is represented with a Spanish word that reflects on the current state of the war outside and also tells a lot about Higinio’s mindset. This series of cut scenes begin with the word “campeada” which translates to “run” and represents the first stage of his fear. In the opening scene of the film, Higinio hides in the hole under his kitchen but as soon he gets the opportunity to get out of there, he promises his wife that he’ll come back for her and leaves home. This shows how even with the fear of reprisal lurking above him, he still has the courage to get out there.
This is followed by “esconder” (“to hide” in English) which represents his first attempt to go into hiding. After being betrayed by his own neighbor, Higinio gets caught by the opposition, but he somehow manages to escape from them and makes his way back home. This is when he starts hiding in the trench of his kitchen but has no clue how long he’ll have to pull this off. Post this, comes “detenciòn” (“temporary loss of freedom by the authority of law”). “Detenciòn” is more of a delusion that Higino and his wife create in the back of his heads to assure themselves that the Nationalists will win the war and they’ll be able to live the rest of their lives in peace. But at this point, they have no clue that this self-created prison will almost last forever.
The next chapter, titled “Peligro” (danger), brings in a series of unfortunate events in their lives while the political condition outside gets worse. Higinio’s wife gets taken away and she is heavily confronted. Their home is completely destroyed but his wife still refuses to give up on him. Higino is now left with a choice: he can either surrender or he can stay with his wife and spend many years as a prisoner at his own home. He chooses the latter and with this, the next chapter, “encerrar” (“shut down”), begins.
Much later, his wife leaves him for a couple of months after she gets pregnant but even in his isolation, he unexpectedly ends making some “allies.” When two gay men sneak into his home, assuming that no one stays there, he befriends them and this marks the “aliado” part of the storyline. His wife comes back home with a baby boy and a whole decade goes by. A period of ten years completely transforms Higino and he begins to accept his doomed lifestyle in his trench.
“Aprtado” (“remote”) is the segment of the storyline that represents how distant and separated he begins to become with the world outside. He makes sure that he’s updated with everything through his radio and television but he never dares to leave his home. Finally, with “cambiar” (“change”) and “franco” (“frank”), Higino goes through an honest catharsis which forces him to transform the way he thinks. Both his wife and son begin to question his isolation from the world and keep nudging him for not being around when they needed him.
The Ending: Higinio’s Liberation “Salir”
After being confronted by his wife and kid, Higinio begins to question his choice of staying entrapped in his trench. His son tells him that after all these years, no one really cares about who he is and even their current neighbors are very well aware that he’s still hiding in there. But at this point, he becomes too consumed by his isolated lifestyle and though he does not accept it, he fears to leave his home. He is forced to dig up old graves when the man who initially betrayed him and forced him to go down this endless dark spiral returns. Like Higinio, he, too, seems to be living in the past.
A new chapter, titled “desenterrar”, begins where Higinio is forced to realize that it’s now time to liberate himself. Soon after this, an official amnesty is announced in the state and as soon as he hears about it on the radio, he rushes to his wife and tells her about it. However, even after being legally pardoned for his political offenses, for some reason, he is still not able to leave his trench. After 33 years of imprisonment, his fear gets ingrained in the depths of his mind and paralyzes him. He almost gets addicted to his sense of isolation and the trench where he had initially intended to hide to temporarily, becomes an endless Abyss that pulls him deeper each day.
The final chapter of the movie, “Salir” (“go out”), sets in when his wife, Rosa, who supported him all this while and understood his fears, finally decides to leave him. She realizes that he has gone too far into the depths of his own fears and there is a possibility that he may never return. When she leaves him, Higinio forces himself to leave the confinements of his home for the first time after 33 years and he instantly realizes that it’s not half as bad as he had thought it would be.
He sets out to stop his wife from leaving only to realize that she decided to stay anyway. The two of them then visit their old home where he had once initiated his dark journey by hiding in the hole under their kitchen. In the closing scene, Higinio peeps into Gonzalo’s window and finds him looking right back at him. Gonzalo, who was previously determined to capture him, now does nothing at all. Higinio is finally able to liberate himself from his fears and it turns out that his trench isn’t endless after all. He was blind but now he can see.