Review (Marcus Whitfield, Edinburgh University Film Society)
Ken Loach collaborates once again with Jim Allen, his partner for Days of Hope and
Hidden Agenda, on this moving story about the struggle between a group of young
political idealists fighting against the Franco regime during the Spanish Civil War. The
film received international acclaim not only for the outside perception of the British
writer and director but also for an undocumented part of Spanish history that dealt with
the ordinary men and women that took up the struggle.
In present-day Liverpool a teenager reads the journals of her dead grandad, and is thrust
into the past recalling his involvement in the Spanish Civil War.
Disillusioned by the lack of willingness shown by Eupopean governments towards the upris-
ing of Franco’s Fascists, a young working-class idealist David (convincingly played by Ian
Hart) decides to leave England for Spain to join POUM (a Marxist separatist group made
up of League of Nation freedom fighters). Given very little military training he is thrown
into the deep end of tête-à-tête offensives with the Fascists in and around rural countryside.
Soon David realises that the enthusiasm which brought him to Spain is paling away.
The naïvety he shows is quickly exposed, he is incapable of the harsh decisions and
extreme measures that have to be administered in war. One of these extreme measures
shows a village priest dragged away and executed for collaborating with the Fascists. The
POUM believe that if freedom is to be achieved (a quite remarkable scene by Loach allows
the camera to wander from villager to freedom fighter each expressing their reasons for
the plight in which their beliefs lie) then it’s most effective weapon has to be that the
Land liberated from the fascists, is in the people’s hands to govern. This is the essence of
the collective struggle. Yet the POUM leader is shot and killed because Hart refuses to
bomb a group of Fascists who have taken up refuge with civilians and this causes a rift
within the movement. Hart, ashamed for not preventing the death, leaves even though
he has become close with the deceased man’s Spanish girlfriend, he wanders the countryside,
dazed and confused by the changes of events.
After a stint fighting for another anti-Franco group (a sardonic scene appears where two
groups, who ironically are fighting the same battle, shell each other from the roof tops)
Hart returns to the POUM who have refused to capitulate to either the Fascists or the
Communists. This in turn leads Hart to look deeper into his own convictions which
consequently could lose him all which he has formally stood for.
With Land and Freedom Ken Loach has given us a personal journey, as this project first
took shape in the early seventies it may yet prove to be his most audacious. The arid
Spanish landscape is brutally depicted and its war scenes are never romantically dewelled
upon, leaving the viewer more room to get underneath the characters, characters that come
from all points of the world to fight for freedom.
1. Optional audio commentary by Ken Loach.
2. Loach on Location
– Making Land and Freedom a behind the scenes documentary.
3. Theatrical Trailer.
Language(s):English, Spanish, Catalan
Subtitles:English (idx, sub)