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Spring 1936, a young unemployed communist, David, leaves his hometown Liverpool to join the fight against fascism in Spain. He joins an international group of Militia-men and women, the POUM (Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista). After being wounded he goes to Barcelona, where he decides to join another group of fighters. They remain in Barcelona and end up fighting other anti-fascist groups. David is disappointed and decides to go back to his old band. Written by
Walter de Rijk <W.C.A.de.Rijk@let.uva.nl>
It's a wonderful, intense, realistic and insightful look at the Spanish Civil War with the highly naturalistic cinematography and committed performances characteristic of Loach.
The reviews and debate concentrate on the action in Spain, which, for me, is only half the story that Loach is telling. I grew up in Liverpool in the 50's and 60's and knew quite a few David Carrs. Men then in their own fifties and sixties, often alone, keeping themselves to themselves in quiet corners of pubs and working men's clubs. They never told their own stories, never wanted credit, never wanted to relive their experiences in the Battle of the Atlantic, on the Baltic convoys, in North Africa. Someone who knew them would sometimes say "he was torpedoed four times" or "he was two years in Spain fighting Franco" and that would be that.
So I am delighted that David Carr, played by the incomparable Ian Hart, and this movie is such a fabulous testament to all of them. I love the way his life expands onto the screen, from the small remainder in a Liverpool council flat, from the letters uncovered by his death, into the light and air of Spain, enabling us to share in his buried idealism, its betrayal, then to witness the love of his life and the loss of it. Incredibly beautiful and truly heartbreaking. Unsuspected by all but his best mates and his newly enlightened granddaughter, David is surely off to Valhalla to be reunited with Blanca and his warrior friends of the past. I cannot think of anything in film so unsentimental yet so poignantly moving as her last salute.
This isn't Don Quixote, though. Nor is it Orwell, who is magnificent in an entirely different way, nor is it Hemingway's brash heroism or Saving Private Ryan's gung-ho bullet-for-bullet style of "historical verisimilitude".
It doesn't matter at all whether the events are being portrayed with strict accuracy or not. This is the authentic texture of twentieth century history in perfect context, portrayed through the lens of one man's experience.
And there is hardly anything else like it on film.
A true masterpiece of the art which deserves a much bigger reputation and a place in the British Movie Pantheon alongside the very best.
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