If world building is one of the more challenging aspects of science fiction and future apocalyptic narratives, then Reconquista elegantly skips some of these challenges by setting its apocalyptic, religious-war narrative in 2064 Spain. The Iberian Peninsula has been the location of some of the world’s most detrimental religious conflicts, including the Spanish Inquisitions and the 1066 Grenada Massacre. In fact, the film’s title refers back the struggle between the Christian Kingdoms (most prominently Aragon and Castile) and the North African-Iberian and Islamic State between seventh and fifteenth centuries. In this conflict, the borders constantly shifted as the Muslim Caliphates and Catholic Monarchs vied for control over the area. These disputes lasted for centuries; a hot war was fought for a millennium for spiritual and physical dominance of the peninsula.
By placing future violent religious conflict in that region, the film already entrenches its audience in the future world’s major players in a way that makes sense, with almost no explanation needed. The background of tensions between Spanish Catholicism and North African Islam permeates European history and has been evoked in conflicts as diverse as the Crusades and WWII. Early in Reconquista, we find Carmen, a hardened, cynical Catholic soldier without much sympathy to the Islamic cause. It shows her priorities shift, however when her Catholic Priest Brother convinces her to take on a mission of peace: to safely take an Imam across enemy lines so that he can broker peace between the two sides. While the film’s scope and intent may be more ambitious than its final product, it nonetheless manages to convey the horrors of war, and the futility of religious warfare (as well as its permanence in human existence). The idea of religious soldiers is both profoundly ancient and uncomfortable contemporary. The technology is recent (perhaps even futuristic?), but the dialogues have a timeless sentiment. A child mourns the loss of her mother, soldiers are embittered and cynical, and people are predisposed to hate on sight. The film manages to convey the sensibilities of war without the technological spectacle or casts of (CGI) thousands in contemporary Hollywood war films.
And yet, whether intentionally ironic or not, the film’s title makes the piece inherently less optimistic than the final images seem to suggest. Although re-conquered by Christianity, Spain has never been able to calm its national and religious struggles. Still a country of several distinct peoples, national identities, and religious backgrounds, Spain has consistently proved unable to produce a coherent and peaceful multiethnic, multi-religious space. By naming the film after Spain’s archaic, fractured history, it extends the idea that this violence may continue its vicious cycles.