The Wind That Shakes the Barley is a 2006 British-Irish war drama film directed by Ken Loach, set during the Irish War of Independence (1919-1922) and the Irish Civil War (1922-1923). Written by long-time Loach collaborator Paul Laverty, this drama tells the fictional story of two County Cork brothers, Damien O’Donovan (Cillian Murphy) and Teddy O’Donovan (Pádraic Delaney), who join the Irish Republican Army to fight for Irish independence from the United Kingdom. It takes its title from the Robert Dwyer Joyce song “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” a song set during the 1798 rebellion in Ireland and featured early in the film.
Widely praised, the film won the Palme d’Or at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Loach’s biggest box office success to date, the film did well around the world and set a record in Ireland as the highest-grossing Irish-made independent film ever.
The film stars mostly Irish actors and was made by British director Ken Loach. It is an international co-production between companies in Ireland, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, and Switzerland.
The title derives from the song of the same name, “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” by 19th-century author Robert Dwyer Joyce. The song made the phrase “the wind that shakes the barley” a motif in Irish Republican song and poetry. Loach took some of the inspiration for Damian’s character from the memoirs of Irish Republican leader Ernie O’Malley. University College Cork historian Donal O Drisceoil was Loach’s historical adviser on the film.
The film was shot in various towns within County Cork during 2005, including Baile Bhuirne (Ballyvourney) and Timoleague. Some filming took place in Bandon, County Cork: a scene was shot along North Main Street and outside a building next to the Court House. The ambush scene was shot on the mountains around Ballyvourney while the farmhouse scenes were filmed in Coolea. Damien’s execution scene, however, was shot at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, where many leaders of Irish rebellions were imprisoned and some executed by the British and latterly in 1923 by the Irish Free State.
Many of the extras in the film were drawn from local Scout groups, including Bandon, Togher and Macroom with veteran Scouter Martin Thompson in an important role. Many of the British Soldiers seen in the film were played by members of the Irish Army Reserve, from local units.
Among the songs on the film’s soundtrack is “Oró Sé do Bheatha ‘Bhaile”, a 17th-century Irish Jacobite song whose lyrics the nationalist leader Pádraig Pearse changed to focus upon Republican themes.
The movie became the most popular independent Irish film ever released in Ireland, earning 377,000 pounds in its opening weekend and 2.7 million pounds by August 2006.
The film got a positive reaction from film critics. As of 5 January 2008, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 88% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 102 reviews. Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 82 out of 100, based on 30 reviews.
The Daily Telegraph’s film critic described it as a “brave, gripping drama” and said that director Loach was “part of a noble and very English tradition of dissent”. A Times film critic said that the film showed Loach “at his creative and inflammatory best”, and rated it as 4 out of 5. The Daily Record of Scotland gave it a positive review (4 out of 5), describing it as “a dramatic, thought-provoking, gripping tale that, at the very least, encourages audiences to question what has been passed down in dusty history books.”
Michael Sragow of The Baltimore Sun named it the 5th best film of 2007, and Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post named it the 7th best film of 2007.
Jim Emerson, Roger Ebert’s editor, gave the film a 4 star review, calling it “breathtakingly authentic”, and declared it ranked “among the best war films ever made.”
Language(s):English, Irish, Latin