Monday, February 25, 2008

But they should never have taken the very best

I found the Palme D'Or winning The Wind the Shakes the Barley to be terribly depressing, if well made. While it is very much about the rise of the IRA in the Irish War of Independence and subsequent Civil War, it is also a story of political radicalization, and it looks approvingly on it. Cillian Murphy, who is excellent, plays Damien, who initially resists taking any part in the resistance to British rule, but eventually becomes so die hard that he believes killing fellow Irish is the best course of action.

There isn't a lot of subtlety to the movie. The Black and Tans are presented as brutal thugs, which they may well have been, but they are also nearly faceless. It would have been much more interesting to see the two-sided approach taken in the Battle of Algiers. While that film clearly sympathizes with the oppressed, it presents both sides as rational actors, pursuing opposing goals. This movie would have greatly benefited from a strong British character that wasn't a sneering villain or a target.

Once the British have been driven out, the insufficiently radical Irish Free State and its agents become the enemy. It doesn't take long for the killings to commence and for brother to turn against brother.

In the end, the film sides with the view that political result is best achieved through violence, and not as a last resort, but as the first resort. The situation at hand is certainly dire and it is understandable that the actors take the positions that they do. While I am not sure that is the intention of the director, the movies stands as a warning to those who would counsel war, especially civil war.


Anonymous said...

Yikes. I can't say the theme of the movie appeals to me much (haven't we proven YET in human history that violence never works? Or if it works, it works for a very short time, and then comes back to bite you in the ass?).

But, and here's where my girly side does me in at the movies: Cillian Murphy. Yummy.

Okay, I had to say it. Speaking of Ireland and movies, have you seen "An Everlasting Piece" (an older movie). Excellent, all round. Good cast, great soundtrack, no conclusion that violence is the answer.

Tripp said...


I will take a look at Everlasting Piece, I should know more about Ireland, I think.

If you like Cillian Murphy, he gets lots of screen time in this one. Or check out Sunshine, an under-rated scifi flick in which he stars.