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The Wind that Shakes the Barley

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I'm surprised to see there's no thread yet on this powerful, disturbing and moving film which won the Palm D'Or at Cannes last year. Though I guess that reflects the fact that the Arts and Faith centre of gravity is in North America, and it's only just being released there now, I understand (it makes a change for us to be months ahead of you!).

My article on it is here:

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It is indeed an uncomfortable film to watch, both in terms of the graphic on-screen brutality, and the rootedness in real-life events.

Ken Loach, as viewers familiar with his work will expect, applies the criticism of the British army and Govt. with a large trowel. He seldom does things by half. However, I got the feeling that this film, released as it was, was not just about British action in Eire, but was also a timely comment on contemporary military incursions.

As a way of understanding why occupied people rebel with such dogged persistence it is helpful, if somewhat disheartening.

My own opinion is that Cillian Murphy provides his best performance, with a very strong supporting cast. Occasionally the scripting is a bit simplistic, but the locations and authentic feel of the movie make up somewhat for this.

Jon

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s'been on my "must get around to watching that" list for a while, but still haven't seen it yet (it is a long list though!)

Matt

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I haven't seen it either. I had the opportunity to watch it on DVD recently but I decided to pass. The film sounds repugnant.

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The film sounds repugnant.

Care to elaborate? :huh:

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Posted · Report post

The film sounds repugnant.

Care to elaborate? :huh:

Uh ... he's English.

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Is that like Ted Baehr giving Letters from Iwo Jima the "Benedict Arnold award" for stopping to consider the plight of the Japanese? Isn't it worthwhile to at least consider the experience of a battle from the other side? I haven't seen the film, but I'd be interested in stories from both sides of any battle...

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Is that like Ted Baehr giving Letters from Iwo Jima the "Benedict Arnold award" for stopping to consider the plight of the Japanese? Isn't it worthwhile to at least consider the experience of a battle from the other side? I haven't seen the film, but I'd be interested in stories from both sides of any battle...

But there are no stories from both sides, Jeffrey. Not in movies, at least.

I haven't seen "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" and the reviews that I have read (from the reviewers who I tend to trust) could be misleading, but it seems that this film is little more than an ultra-simplistic history lesson, with Loach serving up the usual tedious stereotypes of cowardly British bully-boys and brave Irish freedom-fighters.

Now, I am not saying that my country didn't commit terrible atrocities against the Irish (heck, we committed atrocities against pretty much everybody - empires tend to do that), but an awful lot of water has gone under the bridge since the days of the Black and Tans, and I grew up watching some of it on TV. Those of us of a certain age still remember those news reports of the bloody aftermaths of IRA bombings and our feelings are still raw.

I would also mention in passing that many of these bombs that targeted innocent men, women and children were paid for by people from your side of the pond - people who had no real concept of terrorism and who held a somewhat romanticized view of the troubles. But there is no romance in war or terrorism, and it serves no purpose to feed myths in movies.

When the Canary Wharf Tower was bombed it made my whole house shake so much that my back garden window cracked. I was scared half to death. It still makes me jumpy when I think about it now. The sound of that bomb came back to me vividly while I watched a TV news bulletin one sunny lunchtime in the September of 2001. We are finally and sadly on the same page, I thought.

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You may be right about this film. I'll have to see it to know.

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FWIW, I was offended by Loach's Land and Freedom (which I only saw once, during its initial release), but I can't recall how much of that might have been due to the audience members who applauded when, e.g., a farmer's land was taken away from him by the "collective". Was the film preaching to the choir, or was the choir singing the film's praises so loudly that neither they nor I heard any subtler messages that might have been there?

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Steve Sailer:

Neoconservatives who extol Winston Churchill's adamancy never mention that in 1921, after Britain suffered no more than 700 army and police deaths in Ireland, he played a key role in negotiations with insurgents that resulted in Britain suddenly cutting and running from southern Ireland after 700 years of occupation.

Why did the UK, which sent 20,000 Tommies to their deaths on the first day of the Battle of the Somme a half decade earlier, not stay the course in Ireland? Ken Loach's film about Irish Republican Army gunmen in 1920-22, "The Wind that Shakes the Barley," which won the top prize at the 2006 Cannes festival, graphically conveys why the English, a civilized people, went home. Defeating a guerilla uprising broadly supported by the local populace requires a level of frightfulness that does not bear close inspection. . . .

Loach is neither the most fluid of filmmakers nor the most historically trustworthy, but "Barley" is consistently informative about the Anglo-Irish War, if spectacularly wrong-headed about the subsequent Irish Civil War among the victors . . .

FWIW.

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Loach is neither the most fluid of filmmakers nor the most historically trustworthy, but "Barley" is consistently informative about the Anglo-Irish War, if spectacularly wrong-headed about the subsequent Irish Civil War among the victors . . .

Loach's method's of working bring him and Paul Laverty in close contact with local people. At the press conference I was at with him, he recounted stories told him by local members of the cast (especially the old woman who sings the titular song) and local residents. He recognises full well that the story they tell is not the story of the entire War of Independence. It's the fictional story of one man in a small community whose story has elements from the experiences of some real people - it's a snapshot of one aspect of a much greater and more complex picture. It's clear within the film that there are many conflicting currents within the republican movement - different motivations, agendas, priorities, concerns, values. One of the film's strengths was the way the debates did not resolve easily - and led to civil war with families being divided and brutality which was a match for that of the English.

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This thread has me wondering what films will be like decades / centuries into the future as film-makers pick over the bones of the American Empire making films about it's atrocities. That's not meant to be inflammatory - I recognise that we in the UK are your leading ally (so well be due some more as well) and that many Americans are appalled by what is done by people from our country. It was just a thought I had in reading the thread was all.

Matt

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I see this as an interesting lens through which we can contemplate our own world. It's not just a matter of the way Empire acts (although clearly that is a big part -- and will go over many American heads because we don't believe we are an empire -- empires are bad, and we by definition are good.) It also gives us a view into what it is that drives a terrorist -- I'm sorry, freedom fighter. And how the gaining of power turns the oppressed into the oppressor. And about the conflict of ideals and pragmatism.

I'm beginning to think the film may have overreached a hair by trying to be too much.

On the ideal/pragmatism conflict, I find the executions by the two brothers interesting. Both choose to do it themselves. Both do so with great remorse. But when

Damien shoots Chris

, it is out of a sense of betrayal to the cause. When

Teddy presides over Damien's firing squad

, it is because order must be maintained.

Edited by Darrel Manson

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[post deleted for the sake of getting rid of a tangent]

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

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(Sigh.) Okay, then, let's just back up, delete our posts, and get this thread back on track. No point in sidetracking it with a discussion of why I'm tracking the statements of other prominent Christian press reviewers.

So. How 'bout that Barley?

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

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Posted · Report post

I wanted to like this film more than I did. I'm just a jaded old poop, I guess. Seemed like too much of a rehash of other films to get too excited about, though the themes are certainly worthwhile.

My review...

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Does anyone know of a good content review for this film? Or, if you've seen it, could you elaborate a little on what kind of content it features? I'm thinking about seeing it, but I want to know how to approach it and what I should be prepared for.

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Does anyone know of a good content review for this film? Or, if you've seen it, could you elaborate a little on what kind of content it features? I'm thinking about seeing it, but I want to know how to approach it and what I should be prepared for.

My article will give you some idea. Don't know if it's the kind of review you're looking for. I haven't looked at any others from a Christian perspective.

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I thought it was a powerful film, difficult to watch but very well done. Cillian Murphy's performance was excellent, as was the rest of the cast. I don't know enough about the history to make a judgement for its accuracy, but I thought what the film showed well was the propensity of the human heart for violence when they try to assert control, and both the English and Irish were guilty.

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I've been chewing on this film for a week now, and trying to come to grips with its themes.

Some Irish historians have pointed out to me that this film covers the same historical period as "Michael Collins", and that the development of armed Republicanism had many stages. For example, the 1920's era was different in many ways from the 1960's. There is a lot of history to learn there which would help shed light on the film itself. I'll have to do some reading on it.

In my initial impression of the tale, I did not find myself walking away thinking of words like "ideology" quite so much as I did words like "avarice". Greed always lurks just under the surface of any resistance movement. Even in instances of rank injustice where one can hardly blame the rebels, there are always a few characters there who want to achieve not just practical, everyday liberty, but insist on much more.

So, I found myself sympathizing to an extent with the party which accommodated the treaty, even though I acknowledge that its terms were less than ideal. I found myself asking "why can't the hardcore party accept this gift with the gratitude it deserves, regardless of England's arrogance?"

I do think that pride and avarice contribute to these sorts of civil wars in great measure. Sure, there are often important principles at stake, but if life teaches us anything, it's that periodic eating of humble pie is necessary. Yes, the arrogant often get away with too much, but if they're ignoring us, to heck with them.

The tragedy of the English is that they refuse to recognize that sovereignty exists de facto when a population thinks of itself as sovereign. The tragedy of the Irish is that they put pride of place over against love of their neighbor.

These seem like intractable problems and yes, they do weigh on many other historical issues, including just about every independence movement you can think of, as well as every colonial initiative.

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Finally saw this last night.

It's such an understated film, really. Almost matter-of-fact in the way it just marches forward and "documents" scenes without sensationalism.

And I really admire it. The more I think back on it, the more I'm impressed.

It made me think of The Last of the Mohicans, the way it stood at a distance and let us watch bad things get worse until horrors were unfolding before our eyes.

What I appreciated most was its willingness to take time with the internal debates and frustrations of the IRA members as they struggled to find a sound path and a reasonable measure of resistance. Loach avoids the fault of so many war films by taking just enough time to develop several strong characters, so this isn't just a "troop." I felt a heavy blow every time a character was lost (or executed).

In the end, it seemed to me to be about how violence, weilded with the best intentions, creates an accountability with each strike. Damien must make choices out of a sense of responsibility... responsibility set by his earlier acts of violence. He is now acting to honor the dead, and to preserve the meaning of his past violent actions. His brother is making compromises to try and preserve some sliver of hope for others. Both sides have powerful, persuasive arguments, and both sides are bound to cost a great deal in the future.

On the ideal/pragmatism conflict, I find the executions by the two brothers interesting. Both choose to do it themselves. Both do so with great remorse. But when

Damien shoots Chris

, it is out of a sense of betrayal to the cause. When

Teddy presides over Damien's firing squad

, it is because order must be maintained.

And yet, in both cases,

a woman responds with those damning words: "I never want to see your face again."

That's a powerful and deliberate way of forcing us to compare and consider those two incidents.

I was worried that this would be just another film about the futility of war, but I found it thought provoking and meaningful.

And I'm finally convinced that Cillian Murphy is a really good actor and not just an arrestingly strange face.

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It's such an understated film, really. Almost matter-of-fact in the way it just marches forward and "documents" scenes without sensationalism.

And I really admire it. The more I think back on it, the more I'm impressed.

It made me think of The Last of the Mohicans, the way it stood at a distance and let us watch bad things get worse until horrors were unfolding before our eyes.

What I appreciated most was its willingness to take time with the internal debates and frustrations of the IRA members as they struggled to find a sound path and a reasonable measure of resistance. Loach avoids the fault of so many war films by taking just enough time to develop several strong characters, so this isn't just a "troop." I felt a heavy blow every time a character was lost (or executed).

I also saw this film not too long ago, and echo your impressions. I remember that I kept coming back to the film in my mind over the next few days, and how I could understand how these people evolved into their position.

Damien's evolution from opposing resistance to his execution was particularly devastating

.

And I take it that your reference to The Last of the Mohicans is a positive one...just don't let Stef know that you're on my side. ;)

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Watched this just after watching Edward Zwick's [i]Defiance. [/i]Both good solid films about brothers engaged in resistance movements.

However, I think Loach manages, while presenting Damien and Teddy as sympathetic characters, to refrain from lionizing them. We see each of them committing atrocities, agonizing over it, and never being quite the same afterward. They both ask "Is this what we fought for?" and Loach refuses to answer that question for us.

Whereas, in Zwick's film we see Tuvia (and Zus, to a lesser extent) confronting some of the same issues ... but they seem somehow to "get through it," compose themselves and move along. Zwick seems far less comfortable with moral ambiguity than Loach does.

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