The Wind That Shakes the Barley Ken Loach

There are many ways you can censure this, Ken Loach’s hour of glory after winning the top prize at Cannes. It’s a ruefully one-sided depiction of the IRA in the days leading up to the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921: the Irish are all depicted as self-effacing softies, while the occupying English are brutal Blue Meanies without a kind sentiment for anyone. But though Loach has never exactly been subtle in lending his sympathies, there’s no denying that his film has a certain amount of truth and emotional power.

The film shows the progress of brothers Damien (Cillian Murphy) and Teddy (Padraic Delaney), the latter of whom is already an important member of the IRA when the former joins after a humiliating experience with the occupying forces. One is introduced to the world of training, going on raids, terrorist missions, weeding out traitors and figuring out important targets, and as we delve deeper into this world, the director’s approach starts to make a little sense.

Loach is a man who refuses to be left dry-eyed in the face of tyranny, and if he’s somewhat naïve in attributing to the victims an awesome decency that nobody could possibly possess, it’s because he’s trying to salvage those parts of human dignity that are damaged by the process of oppression and the struggle to overthrow it.

There were far better films at Cannes the year it copped the Palme d’or, but it’s easy to see why it won; it’s an undeniably decent and affecting work, sort of sentimentally unsentimental in its throwing in with the one side of the cause and embodying an innocent desire for justice. (Christal)