A Student of History

June 2, 2007

“History, Bloody History”

Filed under: Ireland — John Maass @ 7:47 pm

The NY Times has a review of The Wind that Shakes the Barley, here.

In Ken Loach’s movies — he has made more than 20 in the last 40 years — characters frequently argue about politics, which is only fitting, since the films themselves are political arguments. There is no point in combing through Mr. Loach’s work for hints of ideological significance. Ideology — Marxist, anti-imperialist, aligned with the perceived interests of the powerless and the marginal — is the engine that drives his stories. The clarity and force of those stories is considerable, but their bluntness sometimes sticks in the craw of critics, who often scold Mr. Loach for lacking subtlety.

But in watching ”The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” his new film (which won the top prize at Cannes last year), it is possible to appreciate both Mr. Loach’s passion and his sense of nuance. Set in Ireland in the 1920s, the film paints history in stark colors and observes as they blur and bleed. Mr. Loach and Paul Laverty, the gifted screenwriter with whom he regularly collaborates, leave no doubt as to who the villains are in this tale.

From the start, when they raid an Irish farm, the British irregulars known as the Black and Tans are as brutal and sadistic as Hollywood Nazis. The atrocities they commit have an immediate radicalizing effect on the film’s hero, Damien (Cillian Murphy), who abandons his plans to study medicine in London to join the armed uprising against the British.

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