Volume 76, Number 44 | March 28 - April 3, 2007

Koch on film

By Ed Koch

“The Wind That Shakes the Barley” (+)

Historical and ongoing civil wars make for great movies. This film, about the civil war between the Irish and the British, is one of the best of its genre. I saw it on St. Patrick’s Day while wearing my green tie with shamrocks, and I enjoyed it immensely.

“The Wind That Shakes the Barley” opens in the Irish countryside in the 1920s. The Black and Tans, an army of British occupiers, are using oppressive measures to end the efforts of the Irish to form an independent republic. Teddy (Pádraic Delaney) leads a local group of insurgents fighting the British, and his brother Damien (Cillian Murphy) abandons his plans to practice medicine in London and joins the group. Irish women fight alongside the Irish men. One of the women is Damien’s girlfriend, Sinead (Orla Fitzgerald). Cillian Murphy is a phenomenal actor who like Johnny Depp chooses unique roles. His most fascinating role was that of a transvestite in “Breakfast on Pluto.” 

Military battles occur that are reminiscent of “The Battle of Algiers,” and scenes involving betrayal, an informer, and revenge reminded me of that great film, “The Informer.” A torture scene will have you peeking at the screen through your fingers. The mountains, valleys and thatched-roof houses of the Irish countryside are, of course, beautiful. 

When the Irish Parliament accepted partition and peace with Great Britain, the next stage of the Irish civil war began with brother against brother and the rise of the IRA. Incidentally, the final denouement of the “troubles,” as the Irish civil war became known, is being played out today in Ireland. What has occurred in that country over the last 30 years will provide the story line for another great movie.

When I saw the film it was only playing at two theaters in Manhattan: The Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and the IFC Center. It is a very special and rewarding movie that presents a history not sufficiently known. I hope it receives wider distribution.

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