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The Wind that Shakes the Barley

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 2 months ago



Directed by Ken Loach



Damien (Cillian Murphy) is about to leave Ireland for his medical studies in London, while his brother Teddy is an active member of the Irish Republican Army. After witnessing an act of resistance to the daily violence of the Black and Tans, he decides to stay and fight back against the British occupation, and joins the IRA in a guerilla war against British paramilitary forces. When the peace treaty is agreed, the two brothers find themselves pitted against one another: Teddy, who is involved in the organisation of the new Irish Free State, wishes everyone to support peace; Damien, however, deems that this peace treaty is not what he has fought for, and that it will 'only change the colour of the flag', the oppressed remaining so while the elite is replaced. This is the outbreak of the Irish Civil War, when the men in a uniform are now Irish.


In a bid to impose their view on the treaty, both the Irish Free State army and the anti-treaty IRA resort to the same violent means that were used previously by the occupation army and the guerilla, with the violence now directed towards former comrades, and atrocities are committed on both sides. At the end of the film, Damien is about to be executed by the Irish Free State army. Teddy offers to release him if he reveals where the IRA stores their weapons; Damien refuses, and is executed by a firing squad commanded by Teddy.


Laverty has explained that many of the incidents in the film are based on true incidents. Presumably some of the characters are composites; Teddy has similarities with Tom Barry (although he fought on the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War), as the ambush in the film is clearly based on the legendary Kilmichael Ambush. Damien has similarities with two people who gave up their medical studies to join the IRA: Ernie O'Malley, who wrote one of the best known personal histories of the conflict, On Another Man's Wound, and Paddy O'Sullivan, whose brother Micheál wrote a book about the war, Where Mountainy Men Have Sown. Allusion is also made to the atrocities of the civil war era. see Executions during the Irish Civil War


The film was heavily criticised by conservative political commentators in British newspapers (including Simon Heffer who attacked the film before seeing it). Tim Luckhurst of The Times called it a "poisonously anti-British corruption of the history of the war of Irish independence"[in and Ruth Dudley Edwards of the Daily Mail called it "portrayal of the British as sadists and the Irish as romantic, idealistic resistance fighters who take to violence only because there is no other self-respecting course".

However, the reaction from film critics has generally been positive. The conservative Daily Telegraph's film critic described it as a "brave, gripping drama" and said that director Loach was "part of a noble and very English tradition of dissent". Another Times film critic said that the film showed Loach "at his creative and inflammatory best", and rated it as 4 out of 5. The Daily Record of Scotland gave it a positive review (4 out of 5), describing it as "a dramatic, thought-provoking, gripping tale that, at the very least, encourages audiences to question what has been passed down in dusty history books."

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