Remember the past to understand the present
by Annika Pham
- Speaking in Cannes at the British Pavilion to an audience of film professionals and fans of his work spanning over 3 decades...
Ken Loach explained why The Wind That Shakes the Barley [+see also:
interview: Ken Loach
interview: Rebecca O’Brien
film profile] -a true fiction but told with the best historical accuracy possible- has a resonance to today’s current events and gave a true a message of wisdom: by searching and accepting the past, you can better understand the present and hopefully become more mature.
What was the starting point for the story and what attracted you to the Irish War of Independence?
Ken Loach: Paul Laverty the scriptwriter and I have always wanted to do this story. When we decided to get ahead with the project, he immediately started to do a lot of research about that tumultuous period of time in Ireland to make sure the historical elements would be as accurate as possible. My intention was to describe the Irish War of Independence, using the story of two brothers telling both the big events and their personal events. So the heart of the film was really the brothers’ relationships and the way they change during those events. At the beginning of the film, we see that the older brother (played by Padraic Delaney) is better at games and is absolutely prepared for guerrilla fighting, unlike his younger brother (Cillian Murphy) who is gentle and has studied medicine. Murphy’s character initially doesn’t want to get involved in the war, although intellectually, he is attracted to the idea. Then towards the end, the older one who is pragmatic sees the logic of the compromise and of the Pact with the British. On the contrary, the younger brother thinks that nothing will change after the signature of the Pact, that the British people who have exploited them will continue to do so and that Irish people will still live in poverty. Both points of view are arguable, and as the film develops, both will take opposite directions. But the younger one will be the stronger one. The film is quite complex, its not just about right and wrong.
I had already filmed contemporary stories in which characters see the world from their own point of view with no perspective on the historical situation. What was interesting for me was to show that at the time of the Irish war of independence or the Spanish Civil war in Land and Freedom, historical events had actually made people more articulate and politicized.
What do you want people to take away from the film?
There is a sense of tragedy about what happened in Ireland as the Anglo-Irish Treaty was imposed on the Irish. The outcome that was agreed was in fact always on the card.
Is there a resonance with recent history?
The irony is that the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 was accepted at the point of the gun. All Irish people had to swear allegiance to the British crown and all boarders crumbled. It was a terrible legacy. The idea that Ireland belongs to the Irish, to all Irish people, not just the rich was not just pie in the sky. Then during the Celtic Tigers period, a lot of money was invested in the South, but there are still massive inequalities in Ireland and 25% of children are faced with the possibility of living in poverty. The ideas then of the social programme have something to say now as well.
Would you say that the story about the British occupation of Ireland has a relevance to the current situation in Irak?
Yes, it has a relevance to any situation of occupation of a country by an army during war and to the racism it develops, the effects on the local population. The important thing is to be reflective, to remember things so that we can try to understand what happens now, to be more mature.