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The Wind That Shakes The Barley [DVD]

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Product details

  • Actors: Cillian Murphy, Padraic Delaney, Liam Cunningham, Gerard Kearney, William Ruane
  • Directors: Ken Loach
  • Producers: Rebecca O'Brien
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: 26 Nov. 2007
  • Run Time: 127 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,005 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)


Product Description

Political drama from veteran British filmmaker Ken Loach. Damien (Cillian Murphy) is about to leave Ireland for his medical studies in London while his brother Teddy (Padraic Delaney) is an active IRA member. After witnessing an act of resistance to the daily violence of the 'Black and Tans', Damien abandons his burgeoning career and joins his brother in a dangerous and violent fight for freedom. Eventually, both sides agree to a treaty to end the bloodshed. But, despite the apparent victory, civil war erupts and families who fought side by side, find themselves pitted against one another as sworn enemies, putting their loyalties to the ultimate test.


Winner of the Palme d'Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, this gripping drama by Ken Loach (Raining Stones) is set during the early days of the Irish Republican Army, when British occupation of the Irish radicalised many a citizen and caused some to take up arms. Cillian Murphy plays Damien, a medical student on his way to London when he witnesses a couple of atrocities committed by British troops. Instead of becoming a doctor, he turns into a leading and respected figure in an IRA division led by his brother, Teddy (Padraic Delaney).

The film provides some fascinating historical insight into the nascent resistance movement as it was in 1920, and Loach brilliantly conveys the profound emotional transition young men had to make to become saboteurs and killers. Loach's realistic style is absolutely mesmerizing, with many scenes built around the dynamics of large groups: contentious meetings, torture sessions, battles, celebrations, and the like. One has the sense of history as a pool of energy, and one also develops a kind of Renoir-esque appreciation for the fact that different people on opposing sides of a life-or-death issue have their reasons for believing what they believe. As the story moves along, subtle shifts in the perspectives of men and women who had once agreed to be absolute in their fight for freedom results in a tragic yet understandable schism among Irish patriots. The final half-hour of The Wind That Shakes The Barley says a lot about how the Irish, including people who had known one another all their lives, turned their wrath on one another for so many decades. This is an outstanding film, featuring the best performance yet by Murphy (Red Eye). --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

91 of 94 people found the following review helpful By Charles Charalambous on 25 Jun. 2007
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Some reviewers seem to have missed the point. Ken Loach doesn't make Hollywood-style "history for popcorn-munchers" entertainment. He assumes a basic knowledge of the period in question, and then explores specific political questions. If anyone saw "Land and Freedom" before "Barley", they would not be at all suprised that Loach chose to focus on the tensions/contradictions between the fight for self-determination on the one hand, and the kind of state those fighters were aiming for. This scenario is expressed by the relationship between Damian (an advocate of James Connolly's Marxist vision of a workers' republic) and his brother, who (for lack of a broader political vision) sees himself as more of a realist, dealing with the "here and now". It is no accident that the relationships between Damian/Rory and Damian/Sinead are given such prominence. Some reviewers have criticised the acting: Loach famously encourages improvisation, and often uses "imperfect" takes in his final cut, precisely in order to convey the message that history is not all heroic poses and sweeping soundtracks. The same goes for the action scenes: anyone with experience of armed conflict knows that military engagements can very often be confused, random and inconsequential (i.e. not always like Peter O'Toole charging forward on his camel). All in all, I found the film to be intelligent, insightful, very moving, and therefore an excellent piece of cinema.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By T. A. Underwood on 7 Dec. 2012
Format: DVD
Putting politics to one side, this makes for a fantastic drama that at times makes you realise how good film can be - a rare and to be treasured feeling. I confess I'm no expert on the complex political turmoil of the time, but this did not stop me being completely engrossed in this film.

Others have criticised the acting, but I think it is first rate. I've seen Cillian Murphy in a few films (Sunshine, Shallow Grave and Inception), but he is outstanding in this film, as are all the other actors.

It seems for some people that this film is too close to home, despite the period it is set in more than 90 years ago. For me, I don't think it glorifies the IRA, just like it doesn't vilify the whole of England - how can it when it shows the young Catholic farmer being killed by his own villagers because he was forced to report to the authorities details of the uprising?

Back to the film, the landscape, social setting, dialogue and sheer unflinching manner in which Loach approaches the subject matter was a real joy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Moorsman on 19 Oct. 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
It's a sad, grim film which shows a dark chapter in British history, which has been systematically hidden from British citizens. i bought this DVD after a holiday in Dublin and a tour round Kilmainham Gaol which made me realise that British rule in Ireland had been far, far more brutal than I had ever realised, which started me reading up on the 1916 - 1923 period. This film shows very harshly British brutality during the Irish War of Independence and the conflicts within the Irish nationalist side which led to the Irish Civil War. It's set in beautiful, haunting, misty Irish landscape, but it's hard to appreciate the latter because of the grim, terrible story taking place.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Brendan Ray Cyrus on 1 Mar. 2008
Format: DVD
This movie's central story is of two brothers on diverging political paths. Ken Loach presents us with a snap shot of the early days of the Irish freedom struggle in 1920 which casts forward the suggestion that any compromise with Britain is a betrayal.

As the British mercineries `Black and Tans' torture and murder their way through the Irish countryside two brothers (Cillian Murphy P.Delaney) are forced to join the IRA reluctantly.

As the story goes on Loach expertly shows us both sides of the conflict. He suggests that the British army were murderous in Ireland due to the 4 years of hell they suffered during WW1.
He also shows us the motives of the Irish IRA volunteers: "I studied Medicine for 5 years," says Cillian Murphy who puts aside dreams of becoming a doctor to fight for the cause. "Then I shoot a man; I hope that what we're fighting for is worth it."

This is Loach back to his Land and Freedom best; he is not the anti-Brit that some critics maintained. He is just playing his own brand of the patriot game.Highly recommended.
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Serkan Silahsor on 17 Aug. 2007
Format: DVD
Winner of the Palme D'or in 2006 at Cannes, "Barley" is Ken Loach's biggest box office success so far. As far as I know, this is the first Irish film winning the award. When it comes to filmmaking, Loach has a keen sense of realism, naturalism and social awareness. All these elements mix with his strong instinct for time and place, and the result: subtle and intense pictures letting the volatility, misery and pain arise naturally from the harrowing and overwhelming situations.

"Barley" is a beautiful film, an epitome of sharp & powerful docu-drama providing valuable background information especially for those who do not any snippet of idea about the happenings in early 1920s Ireland - Irish people's struggle for independence and origins of the IRA.

Some viewers claim that Loach, due to his radical political stance, distorts historical facts and shows British "Black and Tans" as a stereotypical, bloodthirsty thugs. I don't want to participate in the polemics of whether the film portrays the incidents truly or not - atrocities committed by British forces against civilians, fellow revolutionary's division into factions before Anglo-Irish Treaty and their ideological disputes giving rise to bloody Irish Civil War. This is historian's job.

The truth is that Loach's melodramatic attempt of using two Irish brothers who are at odds with one another to stir up drama proves to be a good formula here. This greatly adds to the watchability of movie. It shows the dark side of war, people's ordeal and how clash of political principles as well as rupture of human values and bonds pit brother against brother.

Lastly, visually the movie is a feast to eyes - from idyllic backdrops of Irish countryside to gloomy dankness of a prison cell, every scene is shot beautifully. For those who like docu-dramas and Ken Loach type of social realism, "Barley" is a must-see.
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