Saturday, June 9, 2007


Kendra and I just got back from seeing The Wind That Shakes the Barley, a movie about the Irish war for independence and the subsequent civil war.

There are a number of things I really like about this movie.

First, this isn't a story that we as Americans often hear, and I'm glad that this movie will, at least in part, bring that to those who see it. But the story aside, the director does an excellent job veering away from triumphalism. It's one thing to show the way the Irish were brutalized by the British, but it's quite another to tell only that story. Ken Loach, the director, does a good job showing the perspective of the rank and file British soldiers, allowing the viewer to sympathizes with them as well as the Irish, while keeping the film centered squarely on the Irish cause. Further, this film does not end with independence, as an American film might. Rather, 1922 is just one plot point of a much broader interrogation of the way a good fight gets muddled. In the end, the conflict between the Irish Free State and the Irish Republican armies is more important to the film than the fight against British. Loach doesn't allow the viewer to feel for either side of the civil conflict, creating a sense of disaster at least as profound as the disaster of hundreds of years of imperial violence. Even in the way Loach frames shots and choreographs speeches, we are always under the impression that we are watching Irish peasant soldiers--not orators, or actors. There are a number of moving speeches--about independence, sovereignty, sacrifice--but these speeches don't carry the kind of practiced bravado that we might expect a less able director to allow.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley is playing at both the Galaxy in Raleigh and the Chelsea in Chapel Hill.

Apparently you can watch a good part of the movie on Youtube. Here's part one.

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