Ken Loach’s forever naturalistic touch brings an air of authenticity to Ireland in 1920. Ultra-realism seems to be the trend right now with such recent historical dramas as this and Paul Greengrass’ United 93 and Bloody Sunday, and the sub genre certainly has the potential to pack a wallop.
The violence that erupts between the English and Irish is always sudden and shocking in The Wind That Shakes the Barley, and the film brilliantly explores the snowballing effect that such actions have. Each act of aggression is responded to in turn ad nauseam until horrible atrocities are being carried out and brother turns against brother, all in the name of vengeance and honour.
Cillian Murphy (Red Eye) heads an almost unknown cast in a film that never takes the extra steps into melodrama. The music is relatively non-intrusive, and the most powerful moments play out in silence. The performances are uniformly excellent.
The film played out much longer than I had expected, though this perhaps had to do with my lack of knowledge concerning the history of Ireland and the IRA rather than any fault of the film. The Wind That Shakes the Barley is a tale of the choices people make when they feel there is nothing left. Time and again we see doubt, hesitation and outright disgust displayed at the notion that Damien, Teddy and other members of the resistance will have to take it to the next level. I found myself craving somewhat more of a melodrama at times, a little romance maybe, but there’s really no place for it in a film like this.
The Wind That Shakes the Barley makes for compelling viewing and a sobering experience.Rating: