The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Despite lineage on my fathers side, and the tell-tale ginge in my beard, I’m not really up on all things Irish. For example, my knowledge of the folk music is so restricted to the Black Velvet Band and the other standard irish-pub-band tosh, that the title to this film meant nothing to me. In fact it meant so little I had to look it up for this post and have been referring to it as the windy barley film, y’know Ken Loach for several weeks.

And, Irish history is another thing I could do with being a bit more informed about. Although, I suspect I may have more of a grasp on it than many of those that sing about knowing their history, I wouldn’t be too keen on choosing it as an option on the quiz machine. So, I was actually not really intending to catch the windy barley film at any time. Much as it’s really rather good, Loach’s film about the Spanish Civil War, Land And Freedom, was spoilt for me by the characters’ propensity to sit down at any opportunity for a lengthy debate about Marxist dialectics. – usually mid battle. Thankfully, there’s none of that kinda nonsense in here. Oh, the politics are there, but this time they are expounded on through the actual plot. And, Michael Collins it aint.

There’s been a lot of controversy about the portrayal of the Black & Tans. As far as I can make out mainly from people that haven’t seen the film. In fact, the lefty leanings of the makers of this film show through in their attempt to at least give some explanation for the behavior of the conscripted salt-o’-the-earth working class lads. Moreso than you’re likely to find just about anywhere else, I’m sure. Of course, they are brutal in their treatment of the natives. So much so that Cillian Murphy‘s doctor character gives up the escape to a big teaching hospital in London to stay and fight for his land (there’s your plot synopsis).

Strangely, because I usually find myself pondering the post-911 subtext of – say – Garfield 2, any resonance with the current situation in Iraq didn’t really start to creep across my mind until I was well out of the cinema. Which is testament as to just how well handled the story is here. It’s a powerful and deeply engrossing movie. And, to be honest, it actually kicks up a gear when the country’s partitioned and the in-fighting begins.

Most of the cast are unknowns, but one would suspect not for long. The central performance from Murphy (the name) is really rather excellent. Which makes me sick. Talented and beautiful. What a cunt.

I am, however, well up on Guinness, Smithwicks, Jameson‘s…

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Written by Tony Kiernan

14 August 2006 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Film

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