March 12, 2008

The Wind That Shakes The Barley (2007)

Every so often I take a bit of a step sideways into what other film genres are doing and often wish I hadn't. Yes, friends, this is another of those moments...

According to the DVD sleeve, "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" is "A sympathetic look at Republicans in early 20th century Ireland, and two brothers who are torn apart by anti-Brit rebellion." Yup, it's all about the beginnings of the I.R.A. with a lot of artistic licence and more than a bit of borrowing from classical drama and every civil war film you've ever seen! In highbrow-speak, it deals with "universals". The old "duty versus family loyalty" motif is just one of those though there are plenty more cliches throughout.

In reality, this film is a "Braveheart" (or even "Rob Roy") wannabe but with no big name stars, even more unintelligible dialogue, a lack of any acting skills anywhere and a contrived storyline that is only designed to make anyone British watching it ashamed to be so.

I'm English. I'm not proud of it. I can't stand this country. If defection was still possible I would be long gone. But one place I would certainly not want to go is Ireland. I've strangely never had any desire to go there, don't like Guinness, and couldn't care less about the place one way or another. I believe Americans turn that negative into a positive with "I could care less". Trust me, I really couldn't. Yes, all the English characters in this film were nasty and I admit as a race we really are... but on an individual basis we aren't all the same... obviously.

That aside, rating the film on the few merits it has, there is a really nasty torture scene involving pulling out fingernails with pliers quite early on which I've never seen in a film before. I'm not squeamish but I did fast forward it when all the other prisoners started singing to cover the screams. Well it was hardly Pop Idol material!

An old French woman who I used to know (who passed on many years ago) had her toenails pulled out by the SS in World War II and now I finally have a better idea of what that particular torture was all about. Yes, this was real horror not the made up monsters of filmland. In war, these atrocities and many more really do happen.

But I'm not going to get on any soapbox here about war or glorification of war in war films etc. I have watched quite a few and I can tell you now that "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" is hardly a "Saving Private Ryan" in the war film stakes.

All the skirmishes (you can't call them battle scenes!) are well done and very realistic in that they are so messy but there's just too much screaming and shouting all through the film. This could do with subtitles at the best of times with sound levels going up and down, mumbles and whispers, and all the Irish accents to contend with. To have to keep turning the volume down because all the ranting and raving was annoying was just another nail in this film's coffin for me.

It reminded me in a lot of ways of something you would get on BBC2 late at night and possibly shown in two parts but it isn't quite good enough even though it's over two hours long! Years ago "The Monocled Mutineer" touched on a lot of the political and moral subjects covered in this film but did it so much better. Young men getting executed for being traitors or for cowardice and the futility of war are pretty standard fare in this kind of period piece but even the final "Blackadder" was more moving (and that was a comedy!).

OK, in this case we aren't dealing with World War I but with the "Troubles" in Ireland (though around the same time). Even so, war is war and film is film and this wasn't a very good example of either.

A lot of people with "agendas" will overate "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" purely because of its subject matter. I don't think it says anything new to anyone and, as I said, the acting is absolutely terrible.

Watch it if you want as it isn't exactly boring even if the wardrobe people must have throughly enjoyed making everyone look as drab as possible. It's just nothing very original and isn't particularly well done. I rate it about 3 out of 10... and that's only because of the torture scene.

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