Watched May 24, 2012
Any film that prompts me to want to study its subject matter is successful in my books. The Wind that Shakes the Barley was well done, entertaining, educational and disturbing. I did find that I was missing some chunks of plot because I couldn't make out what was being said, but that is my fault for not watching with subtitles.
There was something in the way the story was told that I ultimately really liked. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think it is that there are few if any obvious Chapter headings in the film. What I mean is that straight narrative films are often crystal clear as to their subject matter and how they present it. They follow a sort of unspoken rule: start with the present day, go back to the beginning, tell the story of how the conflict arose and how this character got involved, show how he has been changed by it and end where you began, in the present day. Loach starts right in the middle of a conflict and lets us know that there isn't any specific start to it or a specific end. You just see this group of men being driven to action and reflection by whatever is happening around them. It is like the camera is a fly on the wall watching these men grow, fight, argue, debate, kill and be killed. And there is a strange sense of urgency in every scene, as though anything these characters say or do will have huge ramifications. Of course there are the traditional elements of storytelling. The characters develop, they are changed by what they do, etc. etc. But those changes are so gradual, so well integrated that you feel you know the characters quite well and are not at all surprised by the decisions they make. Loach pulled off something magical in that respect, especially given the number of characters in the film.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film, and am looking forward to learning more about Ireland's history.