Land and Freedom (1995) Poster

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Politically and cinematic ally mature
davidholmesfr13 October 2004
It is, perhaps, surprising that more films about the Spanish Civil War haven't been made. The Spanish landscape, the sheer ruthlessness of any civil war, and the perceived Spanish emotions all combine to make what would appear to be an attractive proposition for a film-maker. The names of Picasso and Lorca will forever have an association with the war, yet where are the artists representing cinema? All the more surprising then that it should have been British director Ken Loach who took up the cudgels. Loach is probably best known for his gritty portrayals of the British working class (and under-class), something that has, perhaps, made him more approachable outside his own country.

In tackling the Spanish Civil War any writer is faced with the overwhelming complexities that underlie the events. The regionalism (think only of the Catalan and Basque regions, let alone Galicia and Andalusia), the monarchy, the Catholic Church, landowners, trade unions, anarchists plus the leaderships of the Nationalist and Republican movements all combined to create a very tangled web. Add to that outside involvement, principally from Mussolini and Stalin, the vacillation of Britain and France and, of course, the omnipresence of Hitler, and anyone might wonder where to start.

Loach and Allen take their approach through the eyes of an unemployed Liverpudlian, David Carr (admirably played by Ian Hart) who, as a card-carrying member of the Communist Party, answers the call to fight for the Republic. We follow his exploits through a number of episodes, involving battles, falling in love, injury and, ultimately, a degree of disillusion as the reality of Stalin's views eventually come to dominate, and eventually destroy, his cause. The film is supremely well-made, highlighting the horrors, the camaraderie, and the political divisions. In particular, the debate amongst the militia about collectivisation after they have taken a small town takes no sides, but simply allows a number of valid arguments to be exposed within the context of the shifting sands of the war.

There is still ample material for the industry to go on to make more films on this important period in history. But Loach has set the benchmark.
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Loach and Allen do it again.
slovenia21 July 2001
Land and Freedom is Ken Loach and Jim Allen's tribute to the ordinary volunteers that risked their lives for a better world in the fight against fascism. Unfortunately as Allen argues instead of building socialism those volunteers were betrayed by the Stalinists who preferred instead the fascist regime of Francisco Franco. The Spanish Civil War was a subject Allen had long wanted to pursue. The fight against fascism; volunteers from many lands; a people's army; collectives and workers' co-operatives; in fact socialism in action. These were his abiding passions, according to Loach who wrote Allen's obituary for the Guardian in June 1999. All these sentiments drive the story of the film.

The movie pins the defeat of idealism represented in the Civil War on Stalin's perfidy. That was the selling out the POUM in the hope of gaining recognition from the `respectable' world. This simplistic argument ignores the deeper problems that beset the Republic and Stalin from the beginning. It is fair to point to Stalinist inspired deceit and to an extent the debate on securing the support of the West against Fascism was a salient factor uppermost in Stalin's mind in the late 1930s. But has history vindicated his actions? Without such tactics might the Soviet Union have faced the Nazi onslaught earlier and in an isolated position risked military defeat? Maybe so and the discussions on the issue goes on. But the film has attracted criticism because of its restricted view of events too. Veterans like Bill Alexander, a British commander in the (Communist) International Brigades, complained that the focus on the participants in the POUM undermined the role of those that fought in those Brigades. In other words the film suggests that it was merely the POUM that was betrayed and other volunteers were not equally as idealistic nor courageous in their defence of the Republic.

Of equal significance in any appraisal of the demise of the Republic/Idealism must be the reaction of the `respectable' Western Powers to the war. The treachery and cowardice for example of the British, French and American governments' provide a wider and clearer picture of the situation. While claiming to be officially neutral all the Western Powers ultimately aided Franco. By exploiting their majority on the absurdly named Non Intervention Committee established to police the International crises, Britain and France rendered the body a mere Fascist poodle by meekly kow-towing to German and Italian demands. Shallow British Conservative Party commitments to democracy were matched by the fragility of the French in their support of the Republic. Covert British Naval support, underpinned by the Higher Ranks fear of `Red' insurgency, was another negative factor. Moreover, Roosevelt's willingness to sell the Franco regime oil was also invaluable to a mechanised army.

After that brief explanation of the International situation now to the film. The basic structure Land and Freedom is as follows. A left-wing young Scouse communist goes to Spain, joins the Marxist POUM militia, and experiences at first hand serious political differences with the Communists and their competing militia. The story is based on the story of Eric Blair (George Orwell) described in his book Homage to Catalonia. There are also elements of Walter Gregory's book, Shallow Grave, in the tale too. While in the POUM this young man becomes further convinced of the right of their cause by the courage, ingenuity, generosity and radical nature of the armed struggle.

There is also a neat combination of different nationalities in the POUM ranks. Recruits come from America, Ireland (ex IRA inevitably), Italy, Germany, France, Scotland and of course Spain. These accurately although not perfectly reveal the Internationalist composition of the forces arrayed against Franco. However it is also worth bearing in mind that the Fascist enemy had an international flavour too. As well as Spaniards there were Moroccan Riffs in the Army of Africa along with Italians, Germans, Portuguese and British. Franco also received political assistance in America from Irish/American lobby groups concerned at the flagrant disregard of the Catholic Church in Republican areas. These were assisted by Joseph P Kennedy the father of JFK an enthusiastic American/Irish catholic and also a nazi sympathiser.

The movie stays faithful to this rather anti-clerical nature and to the situation in the country during the 1930s. A summary execution of a village priest symbolises the hatred felt by the working class toward such a conservative institution. Many peasants and industrial workers were deeply disillusioned with the Catholic Church's message of self-sacrifice for the masses while the Church continued to amass power and wealth for itself. These deep-seated feelings of anger go some way to explain why only 20% of the population in Spain attended mass. A figure inflated to an extent by the higher attendance of those at the top end of the social ladder. But it was not merely Republicans that killed priests. Nationalists murdered priests in the Basque country because they backed local autonomy from Madrid.

Feminist independence is also addressed as during the first half of the film women serve equally with men at the front in the POUM. They are just as brave as the men and in an early scene it is a woman who refuses to drill during training regarding it unnecessary. But once the Stalinist counter-revolution is successful the women are once again reduced to a subordinate position in the ranks. Their new duties become more traditional such as driving, cooking and nursing the wounded. Consequently the real social revolution is lost and the forces of reaction have indeed won the day. Later when the Stalinist forces, wearing orthodox uniforms and driven in military trucks, attempt to disarm and disband the POUM it is the killing of the woman that indicates the death of idealism.

To address the fundamental political idealism that initially attracted volunteers to the colours and to highlight the essential potential conflicts between them. Loach attempts definitively to define what he means by his emotive linking of two basic concepts of Land and Freedom. At about the half way point in the movie a debate amongst villagers, peasants and POUM militia is meticulously presented that seeks to find an agreed policy for the newly captured territory. One villager wants the transfer of land ownership to pass into individual hands while a woman argues alternatively for collectivisation. A classic Bakuninist position. The American militia member (later to defect to the Communist/Stalinist forces) argues for a more moderate accommodation that allows individuals to own land/property. He points out that only modest land reform can benefit the anti-Fascist Front because by radically altering property rights it will only alienate countries whose assistance the Republic needed to be successful. This takes the Stalinist line of reconciliation with the West rather than the Trotskist argument of International revolution/socialism. Other militia members offer variations of Marxism, which fits neatly into their reasons for participation in the war while after a vote is taken (symbolising peasant democracy) the radical collectivisation policy is endorsed. Naturally when the Stalinists force the POUM into the Internationalist Brigades and the moderate America is with them it can be assumed that such radical ideas are to be consigned to the dustbin.

Having said all that the film is still very good. Movies about the very important war in Spain are a rarity especially since the 1940s. Thus a plus point immediately. On a moral level the tale of betrayal and lost hope is excellent even if the issues are rather shallow. As for the anti-Stalinist line it is irrefutable that Stalin wanted to appease the Nazi's in the period. Stalin was also concerned with the attitude of other Western Governments' and keen to appear `respectable' to them. For the same basic reason, that is a fear of Fascist militarism and what the consequences were for the identified Nazi enemy, the Soviet Union. This better explains the line taken in Spain by the communists than simply a desire to destroy the revolution, as the movie implies. As for the implication of stolen idealism and treachery forced only onto restricted units that fought Franco. Loach in making a film cannot be expected to include all the different kinds of military elements that made up the anti-Fascist alliance. By concentrating on a single entity the unit that Orwell fought and was wounded in, the film stays loyal to its principle source and concentrates focus not constrains it. It might not be perfect but it happens to be by far the best we have on such an important topic.
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Loach's Masterpiece
alfa-1612 March 2006
I also love this film.

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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Very, very accurate portrayal of one of the many facets of the Spanish Civil War.
divefreak10 July 2002
Applause for Mr. Loach. As a person who is majorly into history (Spanish and Irish in particular), I loved seeing this film for the first time, and that was hundreds of times ago. This movie is about a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, played brilliantly by Ian Hart (who is also in "Michael Collins", another favorite of mine) who goes to Spain in 1936 to fight in the Spanish Civil War. He is persuaded to join the Partido Obrero de Unificacion Marxista, or POUM. This was a militia dedicated to world revolution, not to socialism in one country. The film very accurately portrays the beginning of the war, when it was clear cut who was on which side. And it keeps with its accuracy in showing how Joseph Stalin manipulated the country of Spain for his own needs, eventually using his influence there to end the life of Leon Trotsky. "Land and Freedom" also shows the May days in Barcelona, when 500 people were killed in a mini civil war within the forces of the anti-fascist Republic. This film is amazing, both in its ability to show how personal the conflict was for many people and how it was not a clear cut good guy bad guy war after 1936. I would like to say that, although when discussing the Spanish Civil War one will always find their bias, Mr. Loach certainly shows his. Very little mention of the mass murder of priests and nuns is included, except in one scene where a priest is shot for informing on the militia. This was not always the case. The militias would go into a town and simply kill clergy because religion to them was fascism. I'm not trying to defend Franco. I am trying to give some wider perspective on what happened. This film is a very good film, but as I said with regards to "Michael Collins", another film Ian Hart is in, one would be better seeing this film, then reading extensively on the subject of the Spanish Civil War to get the full picture.
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It really touch my heart.
pikechuck23 June 2005
It's one of my favorite movies. The director made an outstanding job representing this glorious and terrible part of the Civil War. It's a movie with a low budget, a good historical representation and a great job from the actors. Iciar Bollain is great. They told me (when I saw it back in 1995) the actors, even many extras, played roles according to their political ideas. I'm thankful for the individuals foreigners who came to my country Spain, from all parts of Europe, USA, etc, to fight against the arise of the fascism in Europe. So I'm thankful for this movie. You'll love the guys of the POUM. You'll also understand why the good guys can't win. Please notice that the Spanish Civil War ended in April 1939, and that the Second World War started in July 1939. 4 more months and instead of the history saying that the 2WW started in Poland, it would say that started in Spain. Well, this is the only movie I know about the Spanish Civil War.
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Anarchist View of Anarchism in Spain
Erick-1219 January 2006
Anarchists have remained almost invisible in mass media films. Worse, when they have appeared, it is generally some bourgeois stereotype of anarchists as violent or some socialist stereotype of anarchists as infantile. Here they are shown more accurately as organized and committed to the nitty-gritty basics of the revolution of everyday life.

British director Ken Loach made a film that finally attempts an anarchist's view of anarchists in Spain during the civil war against the fascists. The victors write history, so as losers of that war, their history has for too long remained untold. But this 1995 film, "Land & Freedom" shows what they were fighting for and what they were fighting against. One of the best aspects here is that the film also shows how the communists aggressively destroyed the anarchists more than their supposed common enemy. This I take as a lesson for today's left:

The melancholy hopelessness of our own 21st century is a consequence of that tragic defeat by the fascists -- largely because the Left fragmented and was brutally dominated by Leninist dictators. Historical progress is now merely spinning its wheels in futility, recycling every old thing again as a farce. The only solution is land and freedom.

P.S. Another sympathetic film based on these events is "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (1943) based on the Hemingway novel, starring Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman. This one is less politically aware however, so it focuses more on the romance. See info at
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Is a film's literary antecedent normally so transparent?
Varlaam31 October 1998
... When it is not even acknowledged?

A left-wing lad goes to Spain, joins the otherwise totally obscure Marxist POUM militia, and experiences at first hand serious political differences with the Communists and their competing militia. Well, the lad does not actually get wounded in the throat during the course of the movie, but otherwise this is the biography of Eric Blair (George Orwell), as described in his book "Homage to Catalonia".

In spite of the single source cribbing, I did like this film in general since films about Spain in English, other than Canadian ones with Donald Sutherland as Dr. Norman Bethune, are few and far between.

It was wonderful to see a priest being shot in this film -- I don't mean it that way! -- since anti-clericalism was an important element both in the Spanish Civil War and in the French Revolution although it rarely seems to be mentioned much in the English-speaking world. The people in both countries felt the burden of traditional, oppressive, hypocritical Catholicism, just like the kind we had here in the Province of Quebec before the Quiet Revolution of the 1960's. At the other end of the political scale, the poor treatment of priests in Spain was a motivating force for Fascists in France to join the Charlemagne division of the Waffen SS to defend the cause of Christianity, or so The Sorrow and the Pity attests.

The Spanish war was about liberation from autocracy amidst a blizzard of competing, doctrinaire, left political philosophies. That was a really exciting time to be politically active, and there is a great scene of grassroots socialism in action at a town meeting.

The film has a rough-hewn, half-finished look characteristic of Ken Loach, but don't let that put you off. Anyone who can get worked up about the sometimes microscopic, casuistical differences between the Grits and the Tories, or the Democrats and the GOP, or New Labour and those other Tories, or Labor and National, or the SDP and the CDU, etc. should really love a movie, and a conflict, where the political spectrum is so broad for a change. Political animals of whatever bent should get a kick out of it.
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The forgotten prelude to World War 2
jaybob30 May 2002
Ken Loach proves once again, that he is a director of the very highest calibre. He has crafted a film about the Spanish Civil War (1936-9), which was the prelude to WW2.

Truthfully I could care less about the politics of this tragic episode in world history, BUT the director,by his sheer genius & craftsmanship made me sit at the edge of my seat & pay close attention. Subtitles are used sparingly & it is hard to make some of the dialogue out due thick accent, The acting is so skillfull you needed no dialogue,you are able to understand each actors feelings & emotions. Credit this to Mr.Loach, The only actor I have heard of in this film is the lead IAN HART/ He & all the others do an excellent job. This film was made in 1995, & barely released,another example of distributors not knowing a GREAT film from a hole in the ground. Even this is a war film, there is very little violence, a good history lesson for the younger ones, then a trip to the library to find out more.

My rating is ***1/2 95/100 points 9 on IMDb
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What this film is really about: Stalinism
ericlee17 September 2006
Though set in Spain during the time of the civil war of 1936-39, Loach's film belongs more to the genre of anti-Stalinist cinema than it does to films about Spain. The main theme of the film is the young man's discovery about the reality of the political movement to which he has devoted his life. And the climactic moment in the film is when he rips up his Communist Party membership card.

The crimes of the Stalinists are portrayed throughout the film -- they deny decent, modern weapons to those sections of the front which they do not control; they actively engage in repression against the POUM and the anarchists in Barcelona; in the pages of the British Daily Worker which we briefly see on the screen, we are shown the daily barrage of lies they spread (such as Trotsky's 'support' for Franco fascism).

Anyone who sees this film as simply a black-and-white, good vs evil portrayal of heroic young people aiding the brave Spaniards in their battle for freedom is missing what is, I believe, its main point. It is not primarily about Spain.

Seeing a film like this, I cannot forget the more typical Hollywood portrayals (at least in the last generation) of Communists. A film like "The Way We Were" shows the American Communist Party only during those moments when its positions would today be considered palatable (supporting the Spanish republic, backing Roosevelt and the US war effort in World War II, and later calling for nuclear disarmament).

It doesn't show the time of the Moscow Trials, nor the real role played by the Soviet Union and its agents in Spain, nor the Communist Party's opposition to fighting Hitler and the Nazis in 1939-41, nor the post-war period when the Party did what it could to encourage nuclear proliferation by passing on atomic secrets to Stalin.

Land and Freedom does try to show one of the Comintern's uglier moments, to its credit.

A film like this was made possible by the fact that Loach comes out of the British far left, and the British far left has long been dominated not by Stalinists but by their Marxist opponents -- primarily the Trotskyists of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Whatever disagreements I or others may have with the SWP (and they are many), at least they rejected Stalinism.

What we need are more films like this showing the real role played by Communist Parties all during the history of the Soviet regime. For example a film set in any European country during the period between September 1939 and June 1941 (the time of the Hitler-Stalin pact) which honestly portrays Communist parties as allies of the Nazis (even in occupied countries like Norway and France) would be welcome.
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Wartime drama about political idealism centered on a British young joined the POUM
ma-cortes12 August 2009
The picture begins in recent times when a granddaughter looking for papers aware her grandfather fought in Spanish War Civil (1936-1939) that is the subject matter of the movie. Then happens a long flashback where are developed the facts about David (Ian Hart), a working-class and unemployed young . He's an English communist who leaves Liverpool and comes to join the Republicans troops against the General Franco army . He joined the P.O.U.M. (Partido Obrero Unificacion Marxista) of Trosky ideology, for that reason are called Troskists. There he meets women fighters ( Rosana Pastor, Iciar Bollain) and the International brigades (Tom Gilroy). David befriends the militia people and fights in the trenches of the battles of Teruel and Ebro. David is wounded and while he's in Barcelona occurs confrontation between FAI, CNT anarchists followers of the leader Durruti (who gave name to the Column Durruti), regular troops of the Republican government, Stalinists and Troskists. Then David decides to return to his previous militia.

This interesting historical story is a passionate retelling and a touching warlike drama. The film originated an intense discussion in Spain about its principal theme , the Spanish Civil War . However the intense debate about ownership of lands proceeded in pseudo-documentary style is overlong and dull. Adequate cinematography by Barry Ackroyd , Ken Loach's usual . Perceptible and sensible musical score by George Fenton. ¨Land and freedom ¨ was a Spanish- British co-production and obtained much success in the Spain box-office . The film belongs a splendid trilogy by Ken Loach, developing historical deeds from a thoughtful point of sight , such as ¨Hidden agenda¨ and ¨The wind that shakes the barley¨.

The motion picture is professionally directed by Ken Loach. In the 90s he directed a series of award-winning movies firmly establishing him as one of the best European filmmakers with ¨Riff-Raff¨, ¨Raining stones¨ and ¨My name is Joe¨ winning several prizes in Cannes, and of course ¨Land and freedom¨ which achieved the Ecumenical Prize and the International critics Prize at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival. In the 2000s, Loach went on his special landmark about socialist realism with ¨Bread and Roses¨, ¨The Navigators¨, ¨Sweet sixteen¨, ¨Just a kiss¨, and ¨It's free world¨. This rich human drama appeal to Ken Loach enthusiasts and history buffs.
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Ken Loach's masterpiece so far
Efzed5 March 2003
I've seen all of the movies he made for cinema, and this one is my favourite. Political, clever, touching, funny, wonderful actors (I wonder how come Ian Hart isn't more famous) and great directing. As my grand father had to flee from Spain in 1939, i can only regret that this movie wasn't released before my grand father died.
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The subject has aged, though not the film
Dr_Coulardeau17 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
With the time that has elapsed since the Spanish Civil War and the time that has also elapsed since this film came out, 1995, this film has probably completely changed in meaning and what's more it must be extremely far away from what the non-Spanish citizens who participated in the Civil War might have thought at the time and might have remembered afterwards. The film shows essentially military amateurism and political strife on the front, since there was a real front with Franco and professional armed forces on the other side, as well as in Barcelona. Three trends are shown though not always clearly identified: the communists often called Stalinists, the anarchists identified as the CNT and the POUM who is some kind of Trotskyite organization both anti-communist and anti-anarchist and at the same time for total revolution as fast as possible, with the full collectivization of land, and a high level of independence, autonomy, even the refusal of hierarchy and authority. It led to a catastrophe of course with Franco helped by Mussolini and Hitler, and the communists only helped by other communist parties with the International Brigades and by Stalin provided the Stalinist model was followed. That clearly led to defeat. But an explanation is not given in the film. It is too short to just say discord prevailed. Why did it prevail? There we cannot give one answer only. There are several and even many. At first the weight of the international situation that made Spain a stake of the near future between all the western European countries, Italy and Germany included, and thus a divided West that let Hitler and Mussolini do what they wanted without any restraint, on one side, and on the other side the Communist International and the USSR who were trying to impose a clear model: collectivization of land and nationalization of industry, along with a strong state organization with a professional military force. No sense of compromise, no desire to reach any kind of compromise. Add to that the role of the church and the deep anti-clerical feelings of some sections of this Spanish left. Don't forget the sexist bigotry of a deeply catholic country and people: the equality of women could not last very long. That led to a civil war within the civil war and the defeat was guaranteed. But do not believe this film does not speak to us today, in the time of Obama in a globalized world in the midst of a financial crisis. The left is totally unable to find a complete unity on a realistic project and they have been systematically side-tracked in the recent or not so recent years in France or Italy or Greece. Spain is an exception, but probably not for long. The question that emerges from the film is: Was the social revolution advocated by these various revolutionary factions a realistic objective? Was it the real way History was going to take? I must admit the picture that comes out of this film makes me doubt it very much, especially twenty years after the fall of the last European communist experimentation. It feels as if that project was doomed to fail because of its unrealistic final objective, as well as the short term and middle term stages of that program. But there is a strong fragrance of absurdity in the depicted situation. They try to force history, accelerate it, in a way rape it, and history goes against that violation that can only work with a strong unity of the people behind that strong line and with a strong political and military power in the hands of the unified – or purified – leadership of the transformation, and yet for how long before a serious reform or final defeat? Sad but still true: those who try to violate history and its own pace, be they on the right or on the left, are totally blind to the fact that history does not follow a strict agenda and does not move along a straight line.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Versailles Saint Quentin en Yvelines, CEGID
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An average man becoming larger than himself
kennprop18 August 2018
The story of a working class miner in the Uk becoming a committed part of a greater struggle in Spain. One soon realizes that the main battle is between the rich conservative fascists and those they seek to exploit. The rich own the levers of power and the land. Religion and conservatism

are about maintaining control.This movie is based on Orwells Homage to Catalonia and his experiences during the Spanish Civil War. Read this book if u want an indepth view of what went on. The movie simplifies this reality. The anti fascist side was fragmented into many groups and were ultimately betrayed by Stalins agenda. An international group fought fascism but they were defeated. This is a movie about heroic commitment to an ideal. Of course we now know that Stalins Communism as a system failed. It was just a cloak for centralised totalitarian control. It was at the time seen as an alternative to capitalism and exploitive extremism. This movie fits in with the movie Grapes of Wrath. Both were during a period of chaos and depression. The speech at the end Of GOF shows a similar commitment to fight fascist police, company thugs, robber banks , exploitation and etc. I really enjoyed the story and I think KL told the story well.Its a little known episode just predating the main event of WW2. As a theory Communism is closer to pure democracy, than capitalism is, I think.This movie is hard to get in the US. Probably because it shows alternative ideas, - Communism, Anarchists, Socialists ,union groups.
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A memorable and teaching film
Angeneer14 June 2001
Ken Loach creates a movie which speaks directly to our heart and makes us understand the pure and sincere motives of the rebels against Franco. This is a great movie for everyone who have some time in their lives believed in the ideal of socialism, although a bit biased towards the Trotskyist view (I think Loach is affiliated with the SWP).
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The problems of revolution
Polaris_DiB3 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This film is structured basically the same way as Loach's most recent work, "The Wind that Shakes the Barley": a group of people manage to successfully win a battle against an enemy regime, and then starts to faction and dissolve slowly, eventually culminating in tragedy. "Land and Freedom", however, is a bit stronger and a lot smarter.

It's obvious from these two movies that Loach is a leftist, but unlike most people who make political works for one side or the other, Loach has a strong understanding of the failings and weaknesses of his own politics. His movies often have moments of straightforward political debate, but he never lets any side seem less important than any other. He is one of those rare people who can analyze all of the issues from many directions, and underline the most important parts of what each side needs and what each side can't have.

Loach also has a technique of making initial moments of militarism or violence seem rather childlike, like boys with toy guns running through hillsides and enjoying each other's company. These moments always precede direct damage to members of the group, and in "Land and Freedom", seeing the militia slowly fall apart is very disturbing. Loach also cleverly illustrates the difficulties of revolution from the perspective of the volunteers, as they start fighting for one cause and then find themselves on the opposite end of the barrel against their friends and neighbors.

I've only recently begun watching the movies of Ken Loach, but I really admire the way he writes and directs his movies. He is definitely a very important filmmaker.

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Ken Loach's comunistoid tirade...
samsara7614 August 2010
Land and Freedom is a British drama, directed by the English left-wing director Ken Loach, with a script written by playwright Jim Allen. His and Ken Loach's Marxist, Trotskyist, and anti-Stalinist orientations are evidently present in the film, although it is arguably the theme of Stalinist repression of anti-franquist communist and anarchist militias in Spain during the Civil War, to be mainly portrayed. In the end, given the several disputes and scuffles between the various anti-Franco factions, we wonder, with the director: What is the point to all this? The story develops through flashbacks, and it recounts of a David Carr, a British unemployed member of the Communist Party from Liverpool, who decides to go and fight the cause of the anti-franquist movement in the Spanish Civil War. The narration takes place through some letters Carr wrote, newspaper clippings, and other documents he collected, found and read by his granddaughter, right after his death. The film rides the wave of the leftoid socio-political movement of the 90's, as already mentioned in this blog, with regards to La Haine and, similarly to the French film, this socio-political situation contributes greatly to its success, especially amongst certain circles.

Other themes present in the film are the anti-Clericalism, revealed with the summary execution of the priest culpable of exposing the militians to the Franquist; rudimentary feminism, given the fact that in the POUM, men and women fight together; and finally, the socialist matrix also appears, especially in the village assembly scene, where the peasants vote for the collectivization of the land. This scene is arguably one of the best of the entire movie; Loach's pursue of realism reaches its apex here. The camera loses its perspective, and plunges the viewer right into the live situation, and the dialogues are apt and poignant, also considering that most of the actors participating to this scene were non-professionals.
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Would George Orwell approve?
frankiehudson29 November 2005
This is an interesting little film starring Ian Hart as an Englishman, David Carr, from Liverpool who goes to Spain to fight on the socialist/communist side during the Spanish Civil War.

You know it's a Ken Loach film right from the start when you see the typical bleak urban landscapes of modern Britain – council tower blocks, ugly roads and traffic – as David Carr dies in the ambulance on the way to the hospital leaving behind a vast collection of letters, photographs, newspaper cuttings and mementoes from his time in the conflict fifty years before.

Every seemingly old, boring person may have led a fascinating and remarkable life; his grand-daughter trawls through this personal time-capsule and the generation gap is no more.

The depiction of the civil war itself is beautifully and painstakingly recreated with authentic uniforms (or lack of), rustic farmhouses serving as HQs and plenty of bandit/partisan-style shoot-outs, presumably the essential nature of the conflict in its early stages (before the International Brigades took over). In some ways it is like a prelude to the 1960s, with free love, communal living and an easy-going lifestyle prevailing.

Rosana Pastor is beautiful as Blanca, a young, idealistic yet romantic firebrand serving as the love interest for David Carr. It's not really necessary for the plot and a bit un-Ken Loach. Nevertheless, she is worth it! There are also some fine scenes of grass-roots democracy in action, with the revolutionaries debating and voting on a number of issues, such as collectivisation of farming and whether or not to throw their lot in with the regular Popular Army. They discuss the impact of Hitler and Stalin on the conflict and the nature of capitalism and the international workers' struggle. The participants comprise Spanish, English, Americans and a few others and they all worry about their struggle becoming corrupted.

Ian Hart puts in a thorough, impressive performance, even suppressing that awful Liverpool accent to display quite some skill in the Spanish language. However, all of the swearing is ludicrous, probably anachronistic and completely unnecessary: did people really exchange insults in 1936 involving 'ass'? Does it improve the film? I would like to see Land and Freedom based on the life of George Orwell and perhaps a greater, less idealistic political exploration of the circumstances and events of the Spanish Civil War. Orwell is the man.
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A great human film
membrillon30 January 2006
Just a great film, it gives a glance of how horrifying and absurd a civil war can be, any war is it, but a civil one is absolutely worst, neighbors, friends and relatives fighting each other not only with bullets but also with words, secrets, confidences and more. Loach shows how big he can be as director, he give us a very complete film, quite historic, funny, but above all, a story of just people trying to live a normal life in abnormal circumstances. The film shows a very good casting playing great characters, Ian Hart and Rosana Pastor (as Blanca) are both in their best works. If you like to see good war films, not only spectacular high budgeted epic sagas (I like them too), Land and freedom is a must see film.
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A great film about commitment and courage
friedman-816 May 2006
Land and Freedom is one of the few non-Spanish feature films about the Spanish Civil War. This is a shame, but at least this one film almost makes up for the paucity of cinematic treatments of this event and period.

The story bears some superficial resemblance to George Orwell's experiences, as detailed in Homage to Catalonia -- a British leftist joins the POUM militia and gets mixed up in the events of May, 1937 and the suppression of the party. But Loach fleshes the story out with some wonderful characters and a rare, truly moving wartime love story.

The film is shot in a cinema-verite style that really emphasizes the grit, the horror and heroism of the characters' resistance to fascism. The leads, Ian Hart and Rosana Pastor give wonderful performances. Pastor's portrayal of a woman motivated by idealism, economic need and more than a bit of world-weariness, is incandescent. Yes, she often spout slogans, but that's how people often speak in those situations.

Marc Martinez and Eoin McCarthy are excellent as the militia section commander and the experienced Irish volunteer, respectively.

My one real quibble is that, perhaps by necessity, Loach compressed the really complex issues surrounding the May Days and the suppression of the POUM. The Communist Party were the bad guys, but things were much more complicated than that at the national level in Spain. Nationally, with the organization of the International Brigades and Soviet support for the republic, they were the good guys.

From David Carr's and Blanca's perspective, however, the national level was not important, so there really is a great deal of honesty in this film.
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Nice drama, bad history.
GwydionMW11 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I think this is the first film about the Spanish Civil War since For Whom The Bell Tolls. Which would have been good, if it hadn't chosen to bang the Trotskyist drum and ignore the real fighters.

It starts with an historic blunder - the rising was not led by General Franco. It was organized by General Mola and General Franco sat on the fence till the last minute. But the Military-Rightists - not all fascists - had the sense to rally round their most successful leader.

The important front was Madrid, which held off the enemy till the very end. POUM, whose tale is told in this film, were a small force on a front that barely moved throughout the war.

That a Communist Party member should accidentally join POUM is no more likely than a Free Presbyterian accidentally taking Catholic communion. Besides, the Communist Party had a well-organized network taking members and sympathizers to the International Brigades. POUM had a smaller network which in Britain was linked to a body called the Independent Labour Party, which is how George Orwell got there. The hero's adventures in Spain somewhat shadow Orwell's, but have been reinvented to make him more likable, I suppose.

The telephone exchange was taken over because the Anarchists were tapping everyone's phone. This was done with the authorization of the legal elected government of Catalonia, a government trying desperately to rally military power against the Fascists, who were methodically conquering one Republican enclave after another. The bombing of Guernica and the fall of the Basque Republic occurred at much the same time. A bloody stupid time for leftists to get into a fight with an anti-Fascist government, I'd have thought.
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It's their fault
flingebunt21 April 2005
The Spanish civil war is one of the most pivotal events in the history of Socialism and communism. Prior to the Spanish civil war communism was supported by many of the great intellectuals of the time. This changed afterwards, with many people such as George Orwell and Albert Camus becoming anti-communists and others like Simone De Bevoir and Jean Paul Satre going into denial about the problems in front of their face.

So how can a movie maker deal with something so weighty and momentous, and also highly confused. He tells a small and personal story David Carr, a card carrying communist from working class Liverpool, who travels to Spain to fight for land and freedom.

Everywhere you can see the restrictions of budget in this movie, but the story unfolds on a highly personal level without becoming melodramatic (Hemmingway tries too hard in For Whom the Bell Tolls to make the story personal enough).

Here we see socialism in action, appearing successful until the left destroys itself.

This is not the definitive Spanish civil war movie and no movie could be because the left has been blaming each other for the failure. The communists blame the anarchists, the anarchists blame the socialists, the socialists blame the stalinists and this movie does take a side.

When the movie is over, think read and learn more before you pass judgment.
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Loach can do no wrong.
DukeEman27 February 2003
The fight for freedom in the Spanish Civil War 1936, through the eyes of a young man from Liverpool, England. Powerful and brilliant. Another gem from the great social director Loach who approaches it in a semi-documentary style.
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great movie dealt with class struggle since Bernardo Bertolucci's1900
jowang17 December 2001
Political idealism is always unfortunately beaten, but the war fought against fascism will never die. Ken Loach's Land and Freedom is the great movie dealt with class struggle since 1900(Bernardo Bertolucci). Thank God, we have great film makers like these masters.
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Neither System Should Be Made Attractive
ccthemovieman-115 July 2006
Fascism versus Communism? Gosh, what a choice. How 'bout neither?

A combination English/foreign film, with subtitles mixed in liberally, this is the story of the common peoples' fight against Franco's fascist regime in Spain. The "people" consider themselves Communists and that ideology is portrayed positively, of course, an antidote of sorts against Fascism. Frankly, neither system has shown itself to be a good one for the "common man," so promoting Communism, as it's done here, was not attractive to me.

What was attractive was to see this on a widescreen VHS because it's nicely filmed. However, the story begins to lag halfway trough as long ideological arguments are espoused over and over. That, and a boring romance, led this to make me lose interest before it was over.
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Death on the left
paul2001sw-129 December 2013
Ken Loach's 'Land and Freedom' borrows heavily from Orwell's 'Homage to Catalonia' in telling us the story of the Spannish civil war. It's nicely executed, although, telling the story from a foreign perspective, it's relatively brief in its depiction of how the country fell into war. But it doesn't shy from exploring the "revolution or order" debates that ultimately split the Republican side (and which ended with the Stalinists settling the issue in blood on the side of order). There's less romanticism here than in some Loach movies and the film is better for it, but the structure is perhaps too simple, the hero's varying feelings for a woman serving as a stand in for his whole emotional involvement in what's happening around him. It's a good film, but it's less interesting than reading Orwell, who had the fortune (if that is the word) to be able to tell history without hindsight, and from experience first hand.
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