The Wind That Shakes the BarleyJune 23, 2006
A sympathetic look at Republicans in early 20th century Ireland, and two brothers who are torn apart by anti-Brit rebellion.
Release Year: 2006
Rating: 7.5/10 (21,526 voted)
Critic's Score: 82/100
Stars: Cillian Murphy, Padraic Delaney, Liam Cunningham
Ireland, 1920. Damien and Teddy are brothers. But while the latter is already the leader of a guerrilla squad fighting for the independence of his motherland, Damien, a medical graduate of University College, would rather further his training at the London hospital where he has found a place. However, shortly before his departure, he happens to witness atrocities committed by the ferocious Black and Tans and finally decides to join the resistance group led by Teddy. The two brothers fight side by side until a truce is signed. But peace is short-lived and when one faction of the freedom-fighters accepts a treaty with the British that is regarded as unfair by the other faction, a civil war ensues, pitting Irishmen against Irishmen, brothers against brothers, Teddy against Damien….
(as Pádraic Delaney)
(as Mary Riordan)
Máirtín de Cógáin
(as Mairtin de Cogain)
Winner of the PALME D'OR at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival.
Release Date: 23 June 2006
Filming Locations: Ballyvorney, County Cork, Ireland
Opening Weekend: £390,720
(25 June 2006)
Did You Know?
In the cinema scene, the man at the piano is Neil Brand, one of Britain's leading silent cinema accompanists, who in 2006 featured significantly as a composer and accompanist in the BBC television series "Paul Merton's Silent Clowns".
As the Black and Tans drive through the village, they pass a blue house with modern PVC windows.
I tried not to get into this war, and did, now I try to get out, and can't.
One of Loach's best
The remarkably low rating that this film has so far received (4.1 as of
Thursday 8th of June) is indicative of its ability to raise the hackles
of people who haven't even seen it. How can it be otherwise when the
film has not yet been released? 135 people have voted; have all of
these 135 people actually watched the film? Of course not. They're just
voting on the basis of their perceptions or assumptions concerning its
political agenda. IMDb voters are not alone in this; already Simon
Heffer in The Daily Telegraph, Dominic Lawson in The Independent, Ruth
Dudley-Edwards in The Daily Mail and Michael Gove in The Times are
attacking a film they haven't seen (by their own admission). These
attacks are the predictable reaction of empire apologists unable to
abide the depiction of the dark and brutal underside of that imperial
machine, or the suggestion that anyone on the receiving end of that
brutality might be justified in rebelling against it. The title of
Dudley-Edward's lazy hack-job says it all, really: 'Why does Ken Loach
loathe his country?' Loach is a traitor, and must be punished, the
It's a pity that this political controversy seems poised to overwhelm
discussion of the film, because it's an extremely able piece of cinema
and deserves to be seen as such. Barry Ackroyd's cinematography is
superb, ably capturing the beauty of the Irish countryside without
indulging in it. We are rooted in a locale without being lavished with
pretty pictures. The acting is also excellent. The charismatic Cillian
Murphy carries the movie, but the support from Liam Cunningham, Orla
Fitzgerald, Aidan O'Hare and Padraic Delaney is also commendable.
But it's the collaboration between Loach and his scriptwriter Paul
Laverty that makes the film something like a masterpiece. The grim
progress from the murder of an Irish youth to the growth of an armed
I.R.A. campaign, with its attendant violence (shown in stark and
horrifying detail) is expertly managed; the only let-up comes not far
from the end, after the signing of the 1921 peace treaty. Loach tries
to show the brief jubilation and relief that ensues, but in terms of
momentum almost drops the ball. The pace is re-established in time for
the inexorable tragic denouement, and the film's final emotional impact
is considerable. The load is occasionally lightened by the odd touch of
Loach's characteristic wry comedy, such as the belligerence of the
opening hurling game, the teenage message-boy who loses his message,
the melodramatic pianist accompanying the newsreel announcing the
momentous news of the creation of the Free State.
One of the most disturbing scenes occurs when a group of I.R.A. men
return from a successful battle and discover a farmhouse being attacked
and destroyed by a group of British soldiers. The rebels, who have no
ammunition left, are forced to look on, concealed in the bushes; they
watch powerless as the farmhouse's inhabitants are abused. We watch
along with the characters, just as helpless as they are. Why do we
watch? Do we want to intervene, to play the hero and save the day? Do
we perhaps enjoy it? The trouble with many so-called anti-war films, as
Loach has said, is that they outwardly condemn the violence while at
the same time encouraging (intentionally or not) a vicarious pleasure
in the thrill of it all. We want to take part, we imagine how we would
behave in such circumstances (of course, we usually imagine ourselves
behaving with impeccable bravery and surviving to fight another day).
This scene, rather than placing us in the thick of the action, forces
us to occupy the position of impotent bystander. Perhaps this is what
being a film-goer is all about: powerless voyeurism. As we watch the
country tear itself apart in civil war, manipulated by a devious and
callous colonial master, this point becomes all the more pertinent. A
quietly devastating film.