THE SPIRIT OF 45 goes back to the end of the Second World War to recreate the unique spirit of that era, when it really did seem as if a new order had been set up in Great Britain, one dedicated to everyone working for each other rather than out to make individual profits. Industries were nationalized with the aim of securing viable investment, the National Health Service offered medical care at point of contact for everyone, while the government of the time dedicated itself for everyone rather than simply appealing to rich interests. With the help of archive film plus testimonies from those who were around the period, Ken Loach evokes a unique spirit, one which has not existed either before or after that period.
Within those terms, the film is a nostalgic piece which makes some important points about people's capacity to change things, if they really want to. But unfortunately Loach veers off his theme when he introduces Margaret Thatcher into the proceedings. It is true that she ushered in a new area of capitalism and selling off state industries to the highest bidder, but we have to remember the size of her victories, which suggest that a substantial slice of the working classes actually voted for her, in spite of the fact that she was working against their interests. What the film illustrates above anything else is the limitation of communal activity, especially when voters are swayed by the prospect of increased wealth through private enterprise - for example, by being given the chance to buy their council houses. It might not be ethically fair, especially for those too poor to accomplish this, but people basically think for themselves first and their fellow-citizens later. In a sense we were responsible for creating a capitalist world; Mrs. Thatcher only offered the conditions.
With this in mind, a lot of the second half of THE SPIRIT OF '45 is largely rubbish, the product of a mind that consciously misreads British history and simply blames the government for all of our problems, rather than ourselves. On the other hand I applaud Loach for advocating this view, for it is only by appreciating its limitations that we can understand that we are responsible for our own demise.
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