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119 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Betrayal of the Spanish Civil War
Ken Loach's film Land and Freedom is a moving portrayal of a small POUM (United Marxist Worker's Party) militia fighting in the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s. Its protagonist, David, travels from Liverpool to join in the fight against Fascism. He falls for a militiawoman, and finds that the Communist ideals he stands for are false.
Loach does a superb job of...
Published on 12 April 2005 by Eilidh

versus
4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing judged as a film rather than animated history
I'm at odds with the other reviewers here. I'd prefer to review it as a wartime and/or political drama rather than as a piece of non-fiction, which seems to be more the yardstick which other people are employing.

I don't think this was a great success, nor did it offer any new insights to anyone reasonably conversant with an outline of the military and...
Published on 11 April 2009 by Humpty Dumpty


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119 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Betrayal of the Spanish Civil War, 12 April 2005
By 
Eilidh (An Aberdonian in London) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Land And Freedom [DVD] [1995] (DVD)
Ken Loach's film Land and Freedom is a moving portrayal of a small POUM (United Marxist Worker's Party) militia fighting in the Spanish Civil War in the late 1930s. Its protagonist, David, travels from Liverpool to join in the fight against Fascism. He falls for a militiawoman, and finds that the Communist ideals he stands for are false.
Loach does a superb job of showing an almost forgotton faction of the fight against Franco. The POUM were denounced as traitors by the main (Russian controlled) Communist Party, and forced to disband, their leaders arrested. The film has been criticised for its narrow focus on the small militia, but that is what makes it so wonderful - it is possible to engage with the characters and feel what they feel. We may see little of the Anarchists or the Communist Popular Army, or even of the enemy Nationalists, but we understand what the war is about.
Loach wanted to show how the Communists betrayed the ideals of the Left in the Spanish Civil War. They said the war must be won before revolution can happen. Understandably, David, a proud member of the Communist Party in the UK, refuses to believe that they could want anything other than revolution - isn't that what Communism is all about? He soon comes to realise, that with Stalin in control of the Spanish Communists and ultimately the whole Spanish Left, there will never be a revolution: Stalin is too interested in forging ties with the West to embarrass himself with a social revolution.
This film is incredible. Some understanding of the Spanish Civil War and its many complicated parties and militias would help, but even so it is enjoyable and very moving. Anyone who has read George Orwell's "Homage to Catalonia" should watch this. David is much more idealistic and naive than Orwell, but it is the same fight on the same side, with the same pain at defeat. I would recommend this film to anyone, it is wonderfully filmed, with an international cast, not even all professional actors. The story is framed by episodes in present day England, following David's death. As his grand-daughter finds his old letters and newspaper cuttings, we see that although there is a difference of sixty years, the fight of the Spanish Civil War is still going on everywhere, it is still relevant.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unforgettable insight into the Spanish Civil War, 27 Dec 2001
By 
Geoff New "Geoff" (LONDON United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This outstanding film offers a fascinatoing insight into the Spanish Civil war through the eyes of a young British volunteer, memorably portrayed by Ian Hart. Following his death in present-day Britain, his grand-daughter sorts through an old suitcase containing the mementos of his time in war-torn Spain, providing the framework for the story. Brilliantly directed by Ken Loach, the film is a poignant evocation of that same mix of beauty and ugliness, love and tragedy that other writers on Spain have portrayed, and which all those who have, in different ways, been captivated by that coutnry will instantly recognise. The use of loosely-scripted dialogue to add spontaneity and immediacy is particularly effective. Altogether an unforgettable experience.
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33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loach's version of Orwell's "A Homage to Catalonia"?, 3 Dec 2002
This is indeed an excellent film. Ken Loach's characteristic combination of gritty subject matter handled with great sensitivity gives the film a great poignancy. It is particularly fascinating for its treatment of the young hero's struggles with idealism and disillusionment. I couldn't watch this film without thinking of George Orwell's "A Homage to Catalonia" (his account of his experiences of fighting in the Spanish Civil War). The similarities between Orwell's book and Loach's film are too numerous and significant to be co-incidence; I'm sure Loach acknowledges this somewhere, but I saw the film some time ago and don't yet own a copy. Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in Loach, Orwell, the ideology of Socialism, the fight against Fascism, and overall memorable, thought provoking films!
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Ken Loach film in ages, 1 Jun 2007
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This review is from: Land And Freedom [DVD] [1995] (DVD)
I have quite an ambivalent attitude to much of Ken Loach's work. Some of his films, like Kes, are superb. He's not a director known for his technical strengths, rather it is that he is such an independent force that makes most of his films worth watching. Very few directors today produce interesting political films, particularly political films about sometimes-obscure lost causes. He often gets very good performance out of his actors. But I often found most of his films oddly unsatisfying - partly the very partisan nature of them, but often you got the impression that the script could do with a little more focus. Sometimes they lack dramatic tension, but sometimes this is an asset.

I can happily report that this is his best film in a long time. The plot is fairly straightforward - a young unemployed communist from Liverpool decides to join the Republican struggle against the Fascists in Spain. When he arrives there, he joins POUM, one of the Republican associated forces. It follows him as he falls in, out, and in again with his comrades, their battles both internal and external within the Republican movement, and finally to the Republicans being subsumed by the growing Communist International Brigade as supplied and supported by the Soviet Union.

The political tensions within the Republican movement are very well explored a number of times through the film. There is one scene in particular which explores them expertly. A newly liberated village meets to discuss with the POUM fighters how to organise their village to fight the Fascists. Most of the villagers and some of the POUM fighters support collectivisation of the land. One villager opposes it, preferring to work his own land. He is backed by a pragmatically minded American POUM fighter, who points out that powerful liberal democracies such as the US, UK and France are reluctant to back the Republicans because of their communist/socialist rhetoric, and collectivisation would alienate them further. Importantly, these countries would provide arms, which POUM sorely lacks. At the heart of the discussion is a debate as to whether the revolution can be carried forward at the same time as fighting the war, or whether the war needs to be fought first. The village votes overwhelmingly to collectivise. But it demonstrates very well the divisions in the heart of the Republican movement.

In short, this is a very interesting film about an often-overlooked period of history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a noble film, 29 Jun 2013
By 
schumann_bg - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Land And Freedom [DVD] [1995] (DVD)
Land And Freedom is an example of politically engaged filmmaking at its finest, and it does serve as a history lesson for people like me who don't really know anything about the Spanish Civil War. I'm sure Ken Loach's portrayal of the factual side is accurate, and history is lifted off the page and shown as a day-to-day reality. One of the things that struck me the most was the idealism of the young people in the militia group the film focuses on. The main character, David, gets caught up with the POUM (the Spanish Workers' Party) on the train on the way out to Spain and, realising they are on the right side, goes along with them. Historically, the film shows us how idealists on the left, who wanted social revolution that would mean collectivisation of the land, were ultimately betrayed by the mainstream Communists controlled by Stalin, who ended up making them illegal. There was a lot of confusion about who was fighting who, leading to scenes in Barcelona where the Left seemed to be firing on each other. But the main band are an admirable lot - heroic really - and it is amazing how someone like David wanted to go over to Spain and do something like this; quite naive really, given the way things went. It was not so different from the fervour that took young men to the First World War, people who had up to that point only known life in provincial England with the hardships of the era. The debates in the film are well handled, the one about collectivisation a little long, but this stems from Loach's sympathy with the people and desire to give them a voice, not to focus too much on action. I don't like battle scenes in films but of course you can't cut them out, and here the changes in tone and pace are moulded into a seamless whole. My favourite bits are the scenes of camaraderie and an all-too-brief romantic interlude in a boarding house in Barcelona, where David and the wonderfully spirited and courageous Blanca spend one of those impromptu nights that make up so much of the magic of youth, with a beautiful Mediterranean light in the morning, giving poetry to what suddenly seems a beautiful interior. In fact the light is beautiful throughout most of the film. The framing device makes connections between generations and movingly suggests the fight for the right values as a never-ending one, the granddaughter here carrying the banner forward.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars land and freedom, 18 Aug 2011
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This review is from: Land And Freedom [DVD] [1995] (DVD)
Excellent informative movie. a real eye opener. anyone interested in spain should watch this, also read george orwells "Homage to Catalonia" or Laurie Lees "A moment of War".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Facinating, touching complex, film, 30 Mar 2010
This review is from: Land And Freedom [DVD] [1995] (DVD)
This is a very important film to be seen, from a legendary important challenging film director, Mr Ken Loach, who never holds back on issues which need to be discussed.
This sees an ordinary young man question his life, his background, family, opinions, what he thought was right, true and important. He changes his life to do something that counts and risks many things, for love, freedom and hope. A very brave, moving, film with honest challenging themes. great film.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable film, 23 Jan 2010
By 
Eric Johnston (Thai-Burma border) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Land And Freedom [DVD] [1995] (DVD)
"Land and Freedom" is a fictional story set in Spain, 1936-37, but with 'flashforwards' to present-day England. It is not an impartial documentary, nor even a committed one such as Frédéric Rossif's "Mourir à Madrid" [When, oh when, will they release on DVD the English version, "To Die in Madrid", narrator Sir John Gielgud?]

Apart from the execution of one man of the cloth, an accessory before the fact to murder, there are no monks and nuns butchered by enraged peasants and workers (why so angry?) not as a matter of state policy. Nor is it within the ambit of the film to tell of the tortures, executions and decades in hell suffered by many republicans after the fascists had won the war. In late 1969, in Norwich, at the University of East Anglia, I listened to a talk by a Spanish anarchist who had just spent 30 years in Franco's gaols. For many of his companions the only release was execution. But no, that is not the theme of this story.

Ken Loach's film recounts history from a particular and human aspect, and also from an engaged viewpoint. It is difficult to be engaged and to see everything with total objectivity. Engagement, action, is nonetheless necessary.

I have viewed this film many times, through showing it to Burmese friends here on the border. Afterwards, they are silent but with tears in the eyes - or they speak of some parallel experience. Personally, I have yet to tire of the film. It is both moving and educational.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A timeless tale of war and division from 1930's Spain which opened my tear sodden eyes and truly changed my life, 4 Dec 2009
By 
Mutt (Ankara, Turkey) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Land And Freedom [DVD] [1995] (DVD)
Celebrated socialist filmmaker Ken Loach ("Kes" & "Riff-Raff") in his final collaboration with screenwriter Jim Allen ("Hidden Agenda" & "Raining Stones") heads to Spain for this epic tale, which won the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival.

The film is set in 1930's Spain and tells the story of Communist Party of Great Britain member David Carr (Ian Hart), who leaves his native Liverpool to fight against the fascist, alongside comrades Blanca (Rosana Pastor), Bernard (Frederic Pierrot), Lawrence (Tom Gilroy) and Maite (Iciar Bollain), in the Spanish Civil (1936-1939).

English actor Ian Hart ("The Hours and Times" & "Backbeat") puts in a powerful central performance which carries much of the film, while Goya and Turia award winning Spanish actress dominates an international supporting cast which includes Icíar Bollaín, Tom Gilroy, Marc Martínez and Frédéric Pierrot.

The director and cinematographer Barry Ackroyd ("Carla's Song" & "Sweet Sixteen") create a sumptuous looking movie that makes the most of the gorgeous Aragón locations but never forget the human side of war as the screenwriter's script oozes pathos that carries it through some stodgy political speeches and still draws a tear at the end.

Revolutions are contagious...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brief introduction, 12 Nov 2009
By 
Gordon Thomson (Glasgow, Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Land And Freedom [DVD] [1995] (DVD)
A great movie and an interesting portrail of one mans involvement in the Spanish Civil war. As with many of Ken Loach movies this one has the feel of reality about it. But be warned it is taken from the POUM point of view so it does not cover all the complecities of this war, but it is a good starting point.
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