Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wind That Shakes The Barley

Wind That Shakes The Barley examines Ireland in the early 1920s, when Republicans banded together to throw off the oppressive occupation of Great Britain. The film reminded me initially of the Revolutionary War, when the United States used non-traditional fighting techniques in our war for independence from England. But the film ends up reminding me more of our Civil War, pitting brother against brother, as Irishmen are forced to choose sides following a treaty to halt hostilities.

Wind That Shakes The Barley was another movie selected for me by NetFlix. It seems that I have a tendency towards Independent and Foreign Films (along with war movies). I guess that seems pretty accurate in retrospect. Wind That Shakes The Barley picks up the action with British troops terrorizing a small farm, killing a young man for refusing to speak his name in English. A young Doctor, Damien (Cillian Murphy) has deep reservations about confronting the British troops through guerrilla tactics due to the vast superiority of the occupying forces. His views apparently change and he joins a band of Irishmen who train to carry out attacks on the British forces.

The Irish opposition find ways to strike at the British, but only appear to invoke the wrath of the heirarchy, soon finding themselves awaiting the executioner. However, a sympathetic guard aids their escape allowing the attacks to escalate. Damien's brother Teddy (Padraic Delaney) is among the leaders of the small band and helps to orchestrate the attacks. The men manage to deal severe enough blows to the British that a peace treaty is pursued. Following the treaty, Irishmen find themselves divided over whether the treaty goes far enough to give them true freedom. Teddy and Damien find themselves on opposite sides of the argument, eventually leading to an inevitable confrontation.

This film examines the tumultuous experiences of the Irish during this period, paying special attention to the relationship between Damien and Teddy. The film takes a thoughtful approach to the issues, showing a variety of conflicts amongst the Irishmen, more than the broader conflict between the two nations. These dynamics are explored in a credible manner with interesting dialogue used to delineate viewpoints. The story takes a few interesting twists, without being entirely unpredictable. The characters were interesting and well developed. Writer Paul Laverty did an excellent job of creating an interesting period piece.

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