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Ken Loach is a fascinating fellow: looking into the history of his films, there is such an amazing number of amazingly well-done and thoughtfully conceived films, that it is hard to explain why shivers go through my spine whenever I start seeing a new one. The reason for this is Land and Freedom (Terra e libertà) , a surely very important and heartfelt assessment of the personal drama and the political turmoil during the Civil War in Spain. Very good film, up to the point where a group of mostly non-professional actors stages a debate about whether or not the villages land property should be communitized or not. Horror! I did attend my share of townhall meetings in the early days, and they are hateful. This was even more hateful, I could not stand the chattering and shouting, the posing and tactying. It was one of very few occasions in my life when I left a theatre early. Since then, I think I have not seen another Ken Loach film until now.
The Wind That Shakes the Barley” is in many ways very similar to “Land and Freedom”, because – well apprently it is also about land and Freedom, this time in Ireland. It is more strictly and more cinematically directed, however, and hence much more watchable. My initial fears were quickly overcome (even though there is a slight relapse during discussions on whether or not the violent resistance against the British should continue or not – but that, at least, was an important topic…).
The film moves follows the development of some characters who get initiated with violence and hatred, who decide to take on the fight, and it moves irresistibly towards the unavoidable finale, where the group that started off together take different courses which also lead them towards opposing each other. There is a lot of realism involved, plenty of desperation, and at the end we are being confronted with the mother of all conflicts – to be resolved without compromise. Well done, again.
New York Times

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