Friday, February 16, 2007

Land and Freedom - directed by Ken Loach, written by Jim Allen

"The civil war was never a romantic story. The idea that war has something romantic about it also serves a political function and obscures or covers up that which has occurred in reality."
~ Ken Loach

"Land and Freedom is a 1995 film directed by Ken Loach and written by Jim Allen. The movie narrates the story of David Carr, an unemployed worker and member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, who decides to fight for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. The movie won the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize and the Cannes Ecumenical Jury Prize."
~ wikipedia
s p o i l e r

The Spanish Revolution
What of Land and Freedom? This is arguably Loach's masterpiece, one of the great socialist films. Here Loach not only produces a remarkable portrayal of revolution and of the fight against fascism, but also decisively settles the account with Stalinism. The film retells the story of George Orwell's Homage To Catalonia, but through the eyes and in the voice of Dave a young, idealistic, working class Communist from Liverpool. He falls in with the POUM in revolutionary Barcelona and becomes a witness to the secret history of the Spanish Revolution. His story is told through the old letters, photographs and newspapers that his granddaughter has discovered after his death.

Dave is a witness to the bravery with which the POUM militia, both men and women, fight the fascists. He fights alongside them and has friends and comrades killed. He is a witness to the carrying out of the revolution--Loach's celebrated scene when the issue of collectivisation is discussed and voted on. Nevertheless, he still supports the Communist Party line of postponing the revolution until after Franco has been defeated (as did Orwell), and eventually prepares to transfer from the POUM militia to the International Brigades (as did Orwell). Dave is in Barcelona recovering from a wound at the time of the revolutionary outbreak of May 1937 and sees the Communist apparatus in action, suppressing the revolutionary left in the interests of Stalin's foreign policy. He realises that what his POUM comrades, including his lover, Blanca, have been saying about the Communists and their counter-revolutionary intentions is true, whereas what the Communists are saying about the POUM being fascist agents and stooges is lies. Dave has fought alongside these people, and he knows they are being slandered. He tears up his party card and rejoins his militia unit. The terrible climax of the film is the enforced disarming and disbandment of the POUM militia and the arrest of its leaders under the guns of Communist troops. In the confusion, Blanca is shot and killed. The revolution is dead, murdered.

The last image of the film is of Dave's funeral with his granddaughter and some old comrades giving the revolutionary salute over his grave. The spirit of revolution lives on. Loach explores an episode of heroic defeat, but succeeds in leaving his audience inspired.
~ John Newsinger
Originally published in Issue 83 of INTERNATIONAL SOCIALISM JOURNAL Summer 1999 © International Socialism

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