The Wind That Shakes the Barley

The Wind That Shakes the Barley won the Golden Palm (the top prize) at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, but only now finally made it to this area. It’s set in Ireland around 1920, and is centered around two brothers, Teddy amd Damien, the latter played by Cillian Murphy. Damien is a medical student who wants to stay out of the conflict between the Irish Republicans and the governing/occupying British soldiers, but early in the film he sees a train conductor beaten for refusing (on orders from his union) to carry British soldiers, and he decides to get involved in the conflict.

The film is painful to watch, with British soldiers brutalizing the Irish citizens, the Irish Republicans becoming guerrilla fighters, at least one person being tortured, and more. At the same time, the film is beautifully shot, on location in County Cork, and the acting is first rate. Murphy, who I think I have only previously seen in Batman Begins (a good film, but not that good a performance), is especially good here. And the story resonates today, if you replace the England and Ireland with the U.S. and Iraq. On the downside, I did occasionally feel lost, in that I wasn’t actually clear on exactly when the action in the film took place while I was watching it, and the accents sometimes made me wish for subtitles.

I’ll give it a weak 3.5 stars out of 4 stars.

Seen 4/15/2007.

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One Response to “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”

  1. Melty_Girl Says:

    I have a few criticisms of “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” but overall, I thought it was very powerful and I kept thinking about many of the conundrums it raises for days afterward.

    If you thought Cillian Murphy was especially good in “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” and you are an art film buff, you should rent “Disco Pigs,” a beautifully surreal indie directed by Kirsten Sheridan (daughter of Jim). You also might want to check out the more recent “Breakfast on Pluto” by Neil Jordan — Murphy utterly transforms himself.

    Two others you might enjoy: “Intermission” by John Crowley, an ensemble comedy with a marvelous cast and “28 Days Later…” by Danny “Trainspotting” Boyle.

    BTW, I see you’re a Filmspotting addict — me too!

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