The London premiere of Barley + the best bits of the latest reviews
21 June 2006 at 09:49 PM | by Melty_Girl
[Note: This was originally published by cillianONLINE, which has been inactive since September 2006.]
Director Ken Loach couldn't attend the London premiere of The Wind That Shakes the Barley because of a migraine (no big surprise that Loach might be stressed out right now), but Cillian and his co-stars were there. Many outlets are running a Thomas Crosbie story which reports that,
[Cillian] labelled some of the more extreme criticism in the British press as "absurd... A lot of them haven't even seen it. Everyone is entitled to comment, but please see the film before you start spouting off nonsense. British people should look at this movie as should Irish people. They should just learn from it."
In preparation for the Friday release of Barley in Ireland and the UK, many reviews have been published, and I've culled the best bits for you. A Scotland on Sunday review praised both the film and Cillian highly:
The film gives a thorough airing to the politics of the period but finds its humanity in Damien's story and Murphy's naturalistic performance. He earns all our compassion as friends are executed and his girlfriend Sinead (Orla Fitzgerald) is cruelly treated by the British soldiers. In a situation this bleak, he has no alternative but to fight back, and yet with every escalation in the stakes he surrenders a little of his soul. The haunted, tortured look in Murphy's eyes reveals that he is all too aware of what he is sacrificing.
...As an informative account of Irish politics in the 1920s, The Wind That Shakes the Barley ventures where few other films have dared to tread. Only Neil Jordan's disappointing Michael Collins biography and the stern James Cagney melodrama Shake Hands With the Devil come to mind as major works on the period. Those of us who know relatively little about the era can see that it is the key to understanding much of the political stances and conflicts that were to follow over the next 70 years. That may make it sound little more than a history lesson but The Wind That Shakes the Barley also has the human touch that has been central to Loach's work.
Ryan Gilbey of New Statesman gives Cillian's performance high marks:
Loach's [political goal] is helped no end by Cillian Murphy. The 30-year-old has a perfect film-star face and, critically, his sense of urgency extends into the long discussion scenes. ...Murphy animates even a debate over the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty. Everyone in the audience can look in those eyes and know that something really important is at stake.
Still, Gilbey feels that,
The distinction between right and wrong is little more sophisticated than in a Star Wars movie. And so, for that matter, is the treatment of women. Damien's girlfriend, Sinead, has three functions. She carries supplies for the fighters under her bulging beret. She is obligingly assaulted by the enemy, as she would be in any Hollywood thriller. And she has Damien's supper ready for him when he returns from a hard day's bombing. All right, so I made the last one up. But in the off-key world of The Wind That Shakes the Barley, it wouldn't be entirely out of place.
I'll be interested to see whether the Sinead character is really so superfluous; while it's possibly true, Alistair Harkness's review in The Scotsman leads me to believe otherwise. He gives Barley three stars, saying that despite many fine qualities, it's ultimately more polemical than emotional. Yet sometimes,
Loach manages to cut to the heart of the matter, such as in a great scene between Damien and his girlfriend, Sinead, in which she tearfully confesses to wanting to have some kind of a life. It says more about the sacrifices that must be endured in the pursuit of an idealism than anything else in the film, and is a reminder of what Loach does best: fusing the personal and political. If only he'd applied this to the film as a whole...
The British Film Institute's July issue of Sight & Sound features a ** SPOILER-RIDDEN ** (beware!) lead review of Barley. Despite Cillian imbuing Damien with "piercing conviction and reedy charisma," Sight & Sound deems Barley a lesser Loach work of "uncompromising, wintry bleakness, haunted by death and ravaged ideals." Oddly, their June issue featured a Cannes preview of Barley that focused on the "fashionability" of the heroes' "dashing flat caps of sumptuous brown and reds," concluding,
The Wind That Shakes the Barley is a handsome film that delivers a powerful undertow of mythic resonance without resorting to the cheap sentimentality of rebel songs.
Well, friends, we'll each have to see for ourselves what we think of the movie—er, hopefully! Ummm... North American distributor, hello?