Driven by a deep sense of duty and a love for his country, Damien (Cillian Murphy) abandons his burgeoning career as a doctor and joins his brother, Teddy in a dangerous and violent fight for freedom. As the Irish freedom ... more »fighters bold tactics bring the British to a breaking point, both sides finally agree to a treaty to end the bloodshed. But, despite the apparent victory, civil war erupts and families who fought side by side, find themselves pitted against one another, putting their loyalties to the ultimate test.« less
A good movie but a disturbing commentary on the willingness of humans to submit themselves to "group-think," even if the outcome is killing friends and neighbors.
A brutal, sad, powerful film of the Irish rebellion against
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 05/13/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ireland in the early Twenties exploded into armed rebellion against the British. Two brothers at first made opposite decisions. A group of Black and Tan British soldiers arrive at a farm where the brothers and a group of other young men are resting after a hurling game (something like field hockey). The British terrorize everyone there, the men, the women, the aged and the young. They beat and kill one man for refusing to give his name in English. When they roar off, one brother, Teddy (Padraic Delaney), immediately helps form the men into armed resistors. Damien (Cillian Murphy), a medical student, decides to go on to London to a prestigious medical school where he is enrolled to finish his studies. At the train station he witnesses another group of soldiers attack and beat the train's conductor and engineer. The attacks are filled with screams and rifle butts. Damien returns to the village and joins the armed resistors.
From then on we're in the middle of a rag-tag guerilla war, driven by a stern sense of justice and a determination to force the British out of Ireland. The British use wide-spread intimidation, brutality, imprisonment and executions by courts martial. Some of the men we've met die, British soldiers die, hostages die, traitors die, a young friend of Damien's who gave information is executed by Damien. He slowly moves from a reluctant fighter to a man who has become single-minded in what he does. When a truce is declared and a peace treaty is finally agreed upon in 1922 between the British Government and Sinn Fein, the stark reality of compromise splits the fighters. On the one hand, there will be an Irish Free State with British troops withdrawn. On the other hand, it will be a member of the British Commonwealth, an oath of allegiance to the British crown will be required and Northern Ireland will remain an integral part of Britain. Is this what we fought for...to give allegiance to the British, many ask? What we fought for was independence and in most regards we have it, say others. Ireland must be whole, say some. If we don't agree the British will flood the island with their troops, say others. We watch a civil war begin, with Irishmen taking up arms and killing each other. For the brothers, who once fought the British together, it means a crucial split. One fights to put down the rebellion against the newly independent Irish state, the other vows to fight until all Ireland is completely free.
One critic of the film said that "there isn't much nuance to either side." That's probably because, nurtured by terrible actions and long memories, there wasn't much nuance in real life. The Wind That Shapes the Barley is a sad, powerful and emotional film. It doesn't shy away from the brutality and torture by British soldiers or the ruthlessness of the armed response. Most of all, we come face to face with both the courage and the grime needed by the Irish to finally, after centuries of ruthless, condescending oppression, rid most of the island of the British. The acting is uniformly persuasive, especially by Murphy and Delaney as the two brothers. Cillian Murphy, in particular gives a subtle and mesmerizing performance. The brothers' fate may not be tragic but it is so sad it makes you reflect on what you've seen. That's not a bad thing. Each brother in his own way pays for the choices he makes.
And the title? It's from a 19th Century poem that tells of a young Irish boy who soon will leave his sweetheart to join others fighting the English in the 1798 rebellion. They would carry barley in their pockets as provisions on the march. When they were slain and their bodies pitched into unmarked mass graves by the English, from their bodies the sprouting barley came to symbolise that Irish resistance to the British would never die.
I sat within the valley green, I sat me with my true love My sad heart strove the two between, the old love and the new love The old for her, the new that made me think on Ireland dearly While soft the wind blew down the glen and shook the golden barley
'Twas hard the woeful words to frame to break the ties that bound us But harder still to bear the shame of foreign chains around us And so I said, "The mountain glen I'll seek at morning early And join the bold united men," while soft winds shake the barley
While sad I kissed away her tears, my fond arms round her flinging A yeoman's shot burst on our ears from out the wildwood ringing A bullet pierced my true love's side in life's young spring so early And on my breast in blood she died while soft winds shook the barley
I bore her to some mountain stream, and many's the summer blossom I placed with branches soft and green about her gore-stained bosom I wept and kissed her clay-cold corpse then rushed o'er vale and valley My vengeance on the foe to wreak while soft wind shook the barley
But blood for blood without remorse I've taken at Oulart Hollow And laid my true love's clay cold corpse where I full soon may follow As round her grave I wander drear, noon, night and morning early With breaking heart when e'er I hear the wind that shakes the barley."
Disappointing but Admirable Effort
Donegal Dan | Southwest United States | 09/08/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I looked forward to this film as I do to any that attempts to shed light on the struggle of the Irish for freedom from England. The movie is beautiful cinematically and the acting very convincing, although I did think Cillian Murphy somewhat miscast as Damien, the young doctor who is reluctantly converted to the IRA cause by the British brutality he witnesses. However, overall I found the movie disappointing for somewhat the same reasons as reviewer Pouliot. If the viewer does not have a pretty good background in Irish history, especially of the 1910-1922 years, he is likely to have difficulty understanding what is going on and why. The film is narrowed so sharply to one small group of guerilla fighters in Cork County that I don't know how an average viewer could put the action in perspective with the 1916 Easter rebellion, the nationwide struggle going on, the direction and control being exercised by IRA leaders in Dublin and the overall scope of the fight against the British. The biggest plus of this film, to my mind, and it is a very big plus, is that it shows graphically the kind of savagery being engaged in by the British soldiers (the "black and tans" who were sent in to support the regular British forces in Ireland) and the galvanizing effect it had on the Irish populace. It also shows the tragedy that befell Ireland when the independence movement came apart after the Treaty was signed and the die-hard Republicans refused to support the new Irish Free State, feeling that it was a sell-out to accept anything but complete freedom for the whole island. The movie does a good job of showing how the two sides could differ so drastically and still each have legitimate reasons for taking the stance they did. It also drives home how devastating the Civil War was in the final wrenching scenes of what devotion to their beliefs cost the two brothers. This was certainly a singularly Irish story, as another reviewer said, and it leaves you feeling very melancholy to realize what their independence ultimately brought the Irish, i.e., families torn apart forever, scars much deeper than any the British left and a shadow that hangs over the land even today. A haunting if not fully satisfying film."
Brother against Brother
MICHAEL ACUNA | Southern California United States | 03/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Wind that Shakes the Barley," (from an old Irish revolutionary song) Ken Loach's uncompromising, tragic film begins in chaos: a group of young Irish men are playing a rough and tumble game of hurling while the referee yells and threatens to stop the game or eject one player or another out of the game. It's all very testosterone fueled: men at play, having fun, taking it all too seriously. In the next scene, these same men arrive at a shocking scene at the home of one of them: English Black and Tans (the occupying soldiers sent from England to stamp out the crackling embers of Irish independence), thuggish and cruel and intent on demeaning the Irish, are taunting a house of women and upon spying the young men with hurling sticks, the B&T's demand that they stand up against the house and give their names in English (not Gaelic). One man refuses to speak English. He is killed. And so begins this shocking, mesmerizing film about a County Cork rebellion against the British, circa 1920-1922 and zeroes in on two brothers Damien (a sensitive, intelligent, driven Cillian Murphy of "28 Days Later"), trained as a doctor who feels that, instead of pursuing his life long dream of working in London, chooses instead to stay home and fight the good fight. Damien's brother Teddy (Padraic Delaney in a fueled-by-fire performance...his first movie), a big man strangling under the iron grip of the British. The Cain and Abel story is recalled here as it is in a number of Motion Pictures including "East of Eden," as Damien and Teddy eventually have a moral and political parting of the ways and find themselves on opposite sides of the Anglo Irish Treaty of 1920. Loach's films are all about making the political personal and the personal political and "TWTSTB" is no exception. Cillian Murphy is the perfect choice to play Damien: he is a good son and caring brother, he does the right thing, he is inextricably caught up in a David versus Goliath war who emotionally shouts at a particularly terrifying juncture in the film: "I hope this Ireland we're fighting for is worth it." Murphy's heartfelt and emotional characterization of a man who has dedicated his life to saving others but who kills in the name of his beliefs, until he finds himself impossibly torn between patriotic oaths and blood ties forms the moral core of this film. Loach is painting on a large canvas here as this subject matter requires but his artist's palette is muted by the many gallons of blood and the many buckets of guts spilled by both the Irish and the British in this rebellion. "Barley" has the soul of an anti-war movie and the style of a thriller. There are no winners here, no good people or bad people, there is logic on both sides of this war...that's the tragic dilemma.
Exceptional and accurate
Linda D. Meyer | Snohomish, WA USA | 04/26/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"After visiting Ireland nearly three years ago I undertook an exhaustive study of Michael Collins, the Irish War of Independence and the Civil War. I was finally able to see this movie after waiting anxiously since it took Cannes. I was not disappointed. I went with my husband who is not the fan I am and he was impressed as well. The acting is superb, even the flubs, and the photography, (and, of course, Ireland)is stunning. What I would most like to interject into the reviews is that the movie was an exceedingly accurate representation of the Irish situation as it was at that time. (Though I liked the movie Michael Collins, I could not say the same about it in its details.) I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the various sides to the issues which the Irish, the British, the pro-treatyites and the Republicans confronted at that time."
Brutal but honest and necessary
Charles Cecil O'meara | guilford, CT United States | 08/16/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"anyone who ever said 'gee why do the irish hate the english people so much?' ought to see this film. to those who lived it - some of my relatives - the thuggish behavior by the black and tans and other british soldiers turned loose to "teach the irish a lesson" is a disgrace that's yet to be appreciated over here. it's a stain on british history that the english government treated a proud and free people like this - but then, they did the same to every colony didn't they? american patriots who are proud of OUR revolution against england would do well to watch this and appreciate the irish version of the same thing"