We saw 'The Wind That Shakes the Barley' in the intimate Kleine Zaal at Plaza Futura on Friday evening a week ago. It turned out to be a interesting preparation for my trip to a conference in Ireland.
- authentic, realistic
- the rural green of southern Ireland
- the accents – beautiful
- the violence is intimate and personal
Starting in 1920 the story follows the men of a rural area showing how they become radicalized and engaged through the violence of the British Army who are trying to suppress and control the population.
The absolute arrogance and disdain of the British for the Irish, despite the fact that the young British soldiers come from poor working class backgrounds and, in fact, have much in common with the Irish.
Loyalty becomes the key – you can’t raise a guerrilla and fight a war without loyalty and discipline. What is the vision which develops such loyalty? The vision of freedom and self determination for the Irish people, liberation from the oppressor. But ultimately splits in loyalty come on the ‘green’ or ‘red’ divide – a national solution still driven by the capitalists or the vision of a socialist state relieving the massive poverty of the people.
Issues of oppression and control
- this was England’s first colony
- 700 years of oppression of religion, culture and language
- it would be a dangerous precedent for other parts of the massive British Empire if Ireland separated.
I can see how the stories, events, heroes, martyrs and achievements of this time could fuel a vision for the (P)IRA in Northern Ireland in more recent times. They could repeat the process of a liberation war. But terrorism attacking the civil population, as happened in NI and England, is different from attacking the occupying military forces.
There was a nice scene in the courtroom in the liberated town – it reminded me of my radical daughters, they could run a court like that as judge and public prosecutor.
Issues of justice, order, democracy
And oppression, exploitation, poverty.
Justice is meted out in extreme measures – the death penalty (or assassination without trial) for treason or disloyalty.
Apparently the film is not widely available in Britain.
- not yet ready to recognise the dark side of their history in Ireland
- and responsibility for creating the mess there
- terrorism is a hot topic, the justification of liberation fighters is currently politically incorrect.
It is a powerful, painful film – a cameo of the tragedy of Ireland and its relations with its overbearing nearest neighbour from the next island.