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ScreenTalks Archive: Ken Loach on The Wind That Shakes the Barley

ken loach smiling in a field with other actors and film crew
16 Jan 2017
42 min listen

In this ScreenTalk from June 2006, Ken Loach talks to Time Out's Film editor, Dave Calhoun about the film that earned him his first Palme D'Or win at Cannes Film Festival.

About Ken Loach
Described as 'the UK's foremost political filmmaker', Ken Loach has been using film to explore themes of class, conflict and social change for over 50 years.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)

Set in Cork in the early 1920s, it tells the tale of two brothers – Damien and Teddy – who fight in a guerrilla war for an independent Ireland. Their struggle against the British eventually results in a treaty to end the bloodshed, and the establishment of the Irish Free State. But despite this apparent victory, civil war erupts - and families who fought together, now find themselves on opposing sides...


Photograph of director Ken Loach on set

ScreenTalks Archive: Ken Loach

Described as 'the UK's foremost political filmmaker', Ken Loach has been using film to explore themes of class, conflict and social change for over 50 years.

Here, Loach discusses his Palme d'Or winning, The Wind That Shakes the Barley


KL: Ken Loach
DC: Dave Calhoun
EEJ: Ellen E. Jones

EEJ: Hello and welcome to this, the first in a new series of Barbican ScreenTalks - where we re-release exclusive interviews with some of the world’s leading filmmakers.

We’ve been recording Q and A sessions after Barbican screenings for decades - building up a formidable collection of interviews. Now we’ve gone back to the archive, dusted off the tapes, and will be releasing a new ScreenTalk every month.

Later in the series we’ll hear from the likes of king of surrealism Terry Gilliam, and Amma Asante, director of Belle and A United Kingdom.

But we start with a man who’s been described as ‘the UK’s foremost political filmmaker’.

Ken Loach has been using film to explore themes of class, conflict, and social change for over 50 years.

In 1966, his TV drama Cathy Come Home provoked such a reaction, it led to a change in the homeless laws and the creation of the charity Crisis. His prolific filmmaking career includes Poor Cow, Kes, and the Spanish civil war story Land and Freedom.

In this interview from 2006, Ken Loach talks to Time Out Film editor Dave Calhoun about The Wind that Shakes the Barley starring Cillian Murphy. This film gave Loach his first Palme D’Or win at Cannes, but it also marked one of the most controversial periods of an always- controversial career. Like Hidden Agenda, made 16 years earlier, the film was decried as IRA propaganda by some in the press, a charge that Loach eloquently addresses here.

Set in Cork in the early 1920s, it tells the tale of two brothers – Damien and Teddy – who fight in a guerrilla war for an independent Ireland. Their struggle against the British eventually results in a treaty to end the bloodshed, and the establishment of the Irish Free State. But despite this apparent victory, civil war erupts - and families who fought together, now find themselves on opposing sides...
In the interview you’re about to hear, Ken Loach talks about the reaction to this film. He explains how he used local actors, and Cork locations, for authenticity. And reveals why he thinks his films are more popular with international audiences.

I’m Ellen E Jones, and this is Barbican ScreenTalks, with Ken Loach…


DC: Hi everybody! I'd just like to add to that by welcoming Ken Loach here on behalf of the Barbican this evening.

KL: Thanks very much.

DC: I want to start, Ken, by talking about the actual filming of the film last year. You filmed it entirely in County Cork last – I think I'm right – last July and August, last summer and, I remember, I came on the set and was very aware that you were using all Cork locations. Your cast was almost exclusively from Cork and I think where they weren't was because the characters actually demanded it. And a lot of the extras were people from the local areas. A lot of the crew were from Cork as well.

So I want to ask you, through making this film and this particular story, there in County Cork now, 85/86 years on from when it was set, how raw is the memory of that period of Irish history, of the experience of Black and Tans coming into the area, of the lead- up to the Treaty in 1921 and the subsequent Civil War? How raw did it appear from you talking to people who you were working with and the people who you met?

KL: I think it was very vivid in people's memories. I mean initially, some people said, ‘Well, we don't really want to talk about it now because the wounds are still felt’, but, of course, once people did start to talk, then they did talk and you felt almost every field had got some story to tell. It was very vivid in people's memories.

When we were reccing, we went to one old farm, miles away from anywhere, down a single track and the guy came to the door and said, what are we doing, and we explained and he said, ‘Ah’, he said, ‘I have Tom Barry's book by my bedside. I was reading it last night’ and reeled off all the people and the incidents. So I think it's very vivid. Even the school kids know the basic story, which contrasts with this side of the Irish Sea where people say they know very little about it, which is quite sad really.

DC: Thinking of those memories and how much it's still in people's memories, as you experienced it in Ireland, obviously there's the experience of the Black and Tans being there but how much did you find that the theme of ‘brother against brother’ was coming up and the memory of that was coming up, which is a theme that you embrace directly in this film?

KL: Yes. Well, again, that was very strong. People still say there are pubs that are Free State pubs and anti-Republican pubs and people talk of families that still haven't spoken or family members that still haven't spoken. And it was extraordinarily brutal when the war turned to the Republican side fighting each other.

In the town we shot at in Bandon, there's a statue to Sean Hales and Sean Hales was a Free State member of parliament, a member of the Dáil, and he was assassinated.

And his brother, Tom Hales, was a Republican and he'd had his finger nails pulled out by the British rather as we showed in Teddy's case. So that was brother against brother.

And there was a case of Kevin O'Higgins who was a member of the Free State government who signed the execution papers for the man who'd been the best man at his wedding. And so it was very cruel.

DC: I'd like to ask you about some of the reactions already been to the film. Obviously it showed in Cannes in competition and it went on to win the Palme d'Or and, obviously since then, there's been a lot of commentary both in the newspapers and the radio and on television as well... about the film, a lot of it fairly negative. I think I read that you... I think you said, going into Cannes, maybe at one of the early Press conferences or an interview before, that you did didn't expect any controversy around this film. Is that true?

[Laughter from the audience]

KL: Well, it was a joke really! [Laughs] I mean, we thought there'd be a bit. We didn't think it would be as vicious as it was. Before we leave the Palme d'Or, one of the Irish lads in the film is from a small town and the local paper ran an exclusive. It said, ‘Local Man Wins Carte d'Or’ [laughter]. It only needed to add that he scooped it and we'd have...


But the Press reaction was extraordinary and it was over a short few days, just after we'd won the Carte d'Or [audience laughs]. It was extraordinary! I don't want to give it air time really by going over it too much but it was very vicious but there are always idiots who will write kind of vicious stuff and personal abuse.

Two things surprised me. Or there were two things that occurred to us really. One is, it's one thing for some maverick to write it, it's another for an editor to commission it and put it in the paper. That’s serious. Like comparing me to a Nazi propagandist or... It’s very extreme, that. And one writer said he didn't need to see the film to write about it any more than he needed to ready Mein Kampf to know what a louse Hitler was. It’s comic but it's very savage and it occurred to us that it is the editors who commission that and put in and the journalism, there are several examples, I won't bore you by going into them, where the journalism was just plain bad journalism. They were saying stuff that just wasn't, just on a factual basis, was incorrect.

But the other point that struck us is that this really is the breeding ground for fascism because it's fine to attack someone like me because I'm middle-class and white and have got lots of pals, but to write that kind of abuse about an immigrant community or asylum seekers or people who are vulnerable, then that becomes, then it’s ‘Get the bastards out!’ And then it's the breeding ground for fascism and it's a short step to the BNP. So I think that kind of journalism is the breeding ground for fascism really.
DC: I think the point that was mainly... or the theme that was repeated, again and again, was your treatment of, or the perceived treatment of the British characters in the film, essentially the troops and also the landowner. I'm sure you were aware that that was likely to be controversial when you were making it but I was wondering whether, what other areas of the film, for you, when you were writing it with... when Paul Laverty was writing it and when you were discussing it, which other areas did you feel were the most sensitive and you felt needed the most research and...?

Because there are many other themes in there, especially the argument over whether Ireland should have gone in the socialist direction or not which, to me, seems to be key to the film and which is probably, to any student of this period, much more controversial than any depiction of the British, how you interpret that and what your own opinion of that is? Was that, for example, one area which you were aware was sensitive?

KL: Yes, yes. There’s a lot in what you’ve said. On the treatment of the British, just to set the record straight, we were very anxious to be as truthful as we could, so all the soldiers that you see – all the British soldiers, certainly all the ones taking a main part – are British ex-soldiers. And we had two sergeants from the Irish army with us – the British army wouldn't collaborate, not surprisingly, nor the TA [laughter] – even for a trip across with free Guinness they wouldn't come, so anyway… And we also had the CO, the ex CO, from the barracks in Cork – terrific guy, well they all were – and we said to them, ‘We don't want any crazy heroics. Don't play at being soldiers! This is the platoon you've got and this is the squad you've got! This is the area, now how do you do it as professionals? How do you go in? What do you do?’ And they would tell me how it should be done and then they did it that way. So that was how it was done.

I brought a couple of quotes along thinking that this might come up and, apart from the specific incident which, of course, we'd absolutely researched, but the kind of things that were said, at the time, by senior figures, both in the army and in the establishment, were things like this. This is General Gough, obviously a senior figure in the army, March 1921, and he wrote this. He wrote, ‘Law and order have given place to a bloody and brutal anarchy in which armed agents of the Crown violate every law in aimless and vindictive savagery.’ Now that was General Gough in 1921, just the time that this was happening.

DC: So that's coming from the establishment itself?

KL: That's coming from the establishment! Sir Maurice Hankey, who was Secretary to the Cabinet, recorded Lloyd George because people were complaining to Lloyd George and saying, ‘You can't let this stuff go on!’ And Lloyd George's response, according to the Cabinet Secretary, was this: in his diary, he said, ‘Lloyd George strongly defended murder reprisals. He showed that there'd been, from time in memorial, been resorted to in difficult times in Ireland.’ In other words, he was carrying on the policies of the Elizabethan armies, of Cromwell, down to the present day.

And the commission for the Labour Party went over, not identified with Sinn Féin by any means, and their report said that, ‘the Tans and Auxies were compelling the whole Irish people, men, women and children, to live in an atmosphere of sheer terror.’
Now that's the record of the time, really. So we actually could have gone much further. We could have pulled teeth out rather than nails.

There was a man, an uncle of one of the men who was working on the film. His uncle had been shot and then, when he was still alive, tied to the back of a cart and dragged along a rocky road until he was dead. There was a woman standing with a child in her arms who was shot. Shot dead, with the child in her arms. You could go on and on and on.

The other areas that are really, as you say, really interesting and sensitive were... Well, you mention the socialist strand, the strand epitomised by James Connolly, one of the leaders of the Easter Rising. And the Easter Rising had both a nationalist and a socialist element in the leadership and the proclamation and the social programme of the first Dáil had, as they say in the film, had a very strong, what I guess we would call, socialist content. They wanted to construct a society where the land was held in common. Remember, this is just after the October Revolution in 1917, so the ideas are very current. It's not like some desperate left-wing sect seizing power. This was very current. That programme was voted on by the majority of the Irish people. So it was a mainstream series of ideas but then, within the Republican movement, the bourgeois leadership gained control. And, certainly in West Cork, where we did it, the socialist element was not particularly strong, but we felt that, to do a film which missed it out, you'd miss out one of the dynamic elements in the whole process. So that's why Dan drove his train.

DC: It seems that a lot of the misguided reaction to the film highlights the danger of taking it in an anachronistic response of, having an anachronistic reaction to the film as soon as the words 'British' and 'the IRA' are mentioned, it's immediately assumed by some commentators that you're talking about the situation now. I think one journalist asked, ‘Why does he hate our country so much?’ So, assuming that, if you make a film which is critical of the British in the 1920s, you're making a film which is critical of the British now. So there's that proviso about relating it to these days. I know you've spoken against the idea that the film is – just to put it simply – actually about Iraq, but surely there are... I'm interested to hear what you think about themes that are running through the film to do with occupation and civilian reaction to occupation and how far you do think they are relevant and how far they did inform you wanting to make the film now? Because I know it's a film which you've wanted to make for a long time but I'm wondering whether the situation in Iraq now influenced the actual timing.

KL: No, it didn't at all. We were working on it before the invasion – and I certainly wouldn't want to make any glib parallels – obviously, there are big differences, but I think an army of occupation, which is there against the wishes of the civilian population, certain things start to happen. The attitude of young men, armed to the teeth, who are obviously in danger, they will retreat into a kind of bunker mentality. This is what we heard from soldiers. This is my reporting what I was told. They will then retreat into a bunker mentality. One act of violence will lead to another act of violence, it will lead to a bigger reprisal. Then there's the people that they are controlling they start to see as less than themselves. Otherwise how do you deal with them? And a whole kind of vicious circle sets up.
And, currently, we have an army illegally occupying another country. So I guess there are parallels. Other people have made a parallel in Palestine where, again, an occupied country, one political group is in conflict with another political group and, in a sense, the pressures of the occupation and the frustration to the occupation lead to that kind of conflict, as obviously happened in Ireland, too.

DC: By the end of this film, the characters of Damien and Teddy very much represent the divide within the Irish Civil War. Damien represents, you could say, a more idealistic viewpoint that to continue to fight could lead to a socialist Ireland as well as a free Ireland, whereas Teddy's point of view seems to be much more, you could say, pragmatic, much more to do with comfort and security and a belief that the Treaty was good enough at the time. I was wondering what your thoughts were, and Paul Laverty's thoughts when writing the script, do you feel you sympathise more with Damien's point of view? Do you think at that point in Ireland that was actually a lost opportunity for Ireland, and that that alternative was actually possible and preferable?

KL: I don't know. I really don't know and we felt it was impossible to say, or at least it was a cheap shot to say, ‘Well, they should have done this’ or ‘They should have done that!’ I think people were desperate to live in peace. I think everybody felt... It’s ironic because those who supported the Treaty felt that the North, the boundary, would dissolve because it was unsustainable and that it was a staging post. It was a platform and they could go on to achieve everything they wanted. Some thought that. I guess others thought, ‘We can keep the property relationships as they are and we can be the successful Irish businessmen, where, at the moment, we're just dominated by British business.’ So I guess there was a kind of business viewpoint to the pro-Treaty side.

But the big thing there that was hugely influential was the threat of immediate and terrible war. And it's exactly what happened in Nicaragua when the Sandinistas suffered the terror war by the Contras, paid for by the US. And the election came up and the US said, ‘If you vote the Sandinista back in, this terror will continue!’ So, of course, they lost the election. And I don't think we can underestimate that.

What was important for us was that both arguments were put as well as they possibly could, so that both Teddy and Damien are men of integrity and the people around them. There's no – dare I coin a phrase? – hidden agenda here. They've got nothing up their sleeve. They're saying what they really believe and there's a logic to both positions. And that was the cunning of the British evaluating the Treaty. We place it there, we'll split them down the middle! Which is what they did.

DC: Do you find it easy to get those scenes of political debate correct dramatically and passable dramatically? I'm thinking specifically of the scene, towards the end, where the different ideas floating about to do with the... which lead to the Irish Civil War are there in a meeting, in a room and I thought, ‘How do you...?’ Do you find that difficult to deal with dramatically?

KL: Well, the arguments have to live in the people. They have to live in the people and there has to be... I mean it's not a scene that you can do without a lot of preparation, which we did. We worked with historian(s) from Cork University and, obviously, the people read a lot and we were kind of testing the things out as we were going through the film up to that point and testing out people's positions. So that when we came to it, we knew that Rory would be the plain nationalist who would not bend his knee to the king come what may, and we knew that Congo was a man who was staking everything on this. They’d all made huge sacrifices. They weren't going to give up until they'd really got what they wanted. And we knew that there were some, like Leo, the character played by Frank Bourke, who was an organiser and a commander and very thoughtful about how things should be. So, people's positions are being prepared in advance. They were all familiar with the arguments and Paul's script was… he writes this kind of dialogue brilliantly, so there was both a personal passion but... well, what we tried to do, anyway, was to really precisely elucidate the main strands of what was at stake.

DC: Were you able to apply your usual method of holding back the script from actors and shooting chronologically with this film as much as other films?

KL: Yes! Damien didn't know he was going to die. [Laughter] Not till Dan was shot and then they lost and then, I think, he thought it then. But once he was caught, once he was in prison, there was really no way out. But he didn't – oh, it's not important, but in the last scene between the two brothers, only Teddy had the line – I think only Teddy had the line – about, ‘Write your letters, you'll be shot at dawn!'‘

DC: Can I begin to take questions from the audience, please?

KL: Or opinions! [Laughter]

DC: True!

Q1: At the moment, obviously films that have evoked passion in people and sort of shake the scene up a bit have been produced for a long time but, at the moment, there seems to be a climate where it's a more mainstream climate in the film industry, at the moment, particularly with the nominations for Best Film at the Academy last year. Do you feel, being the sort of director that you are and the sort of films that you direct, do you feel that this is a good thing for the industry itself?

KL: Well, I think it's good for the cinema-going public really. It just introduces a bit of diversity into what's available and the documentaries that are made – the Michael Moore documentaries and others. There was a beautiful French documentary about a school.

I think the re-emergence of the documentaries into cinema, whether political or just observational or whatever, I mean it’s good because it just gives us a better choice. My feeling, for what it's worth, is that cinema should be absolutely diverse. I'd hate to be prescriptive and say, ‘Films should be this way, should be that way.’ They should be absolutely diverse and the tragedy is that the choice is so narrow really.

DC: Second question, down the front row there, please!
Q2: How do you... when you're coming up with a political issue, but you're making an aesthetic expression of it, how do you not let the work turn into a work of propaganda or let the politics dominate what you're trying to say aesthetically?

KL: Well, it's a good question. It’s one that constantly recurs. I think one thing, one factor in all this is that these are very politicising times. The events that these people went through absolutely politicised them and that was part of their life. That was part of their... what they were engaged in were those ideas, were those judgments, were those loyalties, what they were actually fighting for, the Ireland they wanted…

All that, when you're involved in that kind – I never have been – but when people involved in that kind of struggle, they become politicised and, therefore, I think that it's quite legitimate that characters, as they do in real life, express those ideas and fight over them and loyalties are... personal relationships are broken up because of them, and so on. And it's an absolutely legitimate subject for drama. I think it's brilliant dra... I'm not saying this is brilliant, but as a location for drama, it's a brilliant area.

Then it's a question... you still have to develop characters that are rounded, that are rooted, that have a history, that have a set of relationships, that have their own kind of personal priorities within that. And that, all wrapped together, is the conflict that you try to put on the screen.

And the arch of the story, if you get it right, just by telling what happens to these people, you'd say everything you wanted to say about that subject. Just by them being who they are, resolving the contradictions that are there at the start of the drama, just by resolving those contradictions and all the outside forces, again, following the logical course that they would follow. Then the drama, if it's the right one, has a kind of inexorable drive to resolution which, in this case, is a tragedy. But I think that's what we tried to do.

But the problem is when people, everybody who comes to see a film, they bring their own baggage, like I have baggage that I bring, audiences have baggage. And what's in their – maybe I should say, what's in your minds - is maybe a predisposition towards this position, that attitude or a predisposition towards the other. And, therefore, you read it according to those predispositions. Just in a simple way, I think people often mistake a character making an argument for a propagandist film and I dispute that because there are many different arguments in this film. So which one's the propaganda one?

DC: Do you think that the further away in time that an audience is and, culturally, from a politicised culture, the less likely they are to find political drama which is full of political ideas palatable? Do you think that's probably the case? You make the strong point that this was a time in Irish history when political debate was current, was vital and was essential but the more an audience is actually removed from a culture where that's true, do you think it becomes more difficult for them to accept political drama?

KL: Yes, I think that's true. Now you're almost given a health warning if anybody's coherent for three or four sentences. [Laughter] The film has a health warning, ‘Go on! Don't go to this! You might actually listen to someone speak!’ Dreadful!
DC: Can I take one, there, please?

Q3: If we transpose your story and characters into more recent times in Ireland, do you think any of your characters could have carried out the bombing in Omagh?

KL: I think that's a hypoth… it’s impossible to say. You could have asked, ‘Could they have carried out the Dublin and Monaghan bombings – Monaghan bombings, actually, which were, put together, the biggest, you know – I'm sure as you will know – the biggest atrocity in recent troubles carried out, the evidence of the, people say, by collusion between the security forces and the loyalists. I guess people get driven into extremes. A lot of water's gone under the bridge since these events and the water that went under the bridge drove people to further extreme positions, I guess.

Q3: I ask the question because I think you're at pains in your films to really show the reality of violence and warfare and I think when, like me, you're removed from that situation, it's very difficult to understand and yet, somehow, there must be a way of coming to understand why acts of violence like that occur in a civilian society. Like Iraq, for example.

KL: Yes, I think it's very complex. People get driven into extreme positions. When we were talking about the armies of occupation, I think that one can see how the culture arises, that the people that are being occupied are treated as less than human. I didn't jot it down but there was a very interesting report by British Intelligence, I think it was the official report after these events in, again, in the early '20s and it referred to the Irish as having a lower form of civilisation, and of their cowardice and their dishonesty. Now, if that's the culture in the official report, god knows what the culture in the barracks is… of how people are treated. And then if you treat people like that, then you can do terrible things to them. Witness the massacre in Haditha, the My Lai massacre in Vietnam.

History is littered with these examples, isn't it? And, as you say, the Omagh bombing and the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

DC: Can I take another one up the top, please, at the top right?

Q4: Sorry, Ken, I just want to ask a quick question. Do you think, actually, journalists should be held responsible for their actions, bearing in mind there was a highly respected programme, two weeks ago, three weeks ago, on a certain channel, and an interviewer was quite antagonistic towards you? And it's a quite respected, cultural programme. I know – stupid question, but...

KL: [Laughs] Yeah, no, well that's part of the knock about of doing this sort of stuff. People will have a go. It doesn't bother me too much. If you draw blood, then it shows you're doing something.

But, I think editors should, obviously, but the editor's there because the people who own the newspapers want the editor there, knowing the kind of judgments they will make.

And the same is true of news editors in broadcasting. They're there because they know the rules. More precisely, they pick the point of balance in any argument right at the
point which it will satisfy the establishment and that's why the editors get their jobs, it seems to me.

That’s why, all the 30-odd years that we've been hearing news stories about Northern Ireland, we've never heard the question of partition. I've never heard the question of partition put. Should Ireland be divided? And yet, it's the basis of the conflict in the North. I've never heard that put because they pick the point of balance. The question is put, ‘Why should the Unionists do business with the Republicans when they've still got weapons?’ Is usually the question, as it's framed. But whether there should be partition or not is never asked. So, I think...

Sorry, I'm going off the point rather but I think your point is, ‘Should journalists be held responsible?’ Well, that'd be a great day! [Laughter]

DC: Can I take the question I missed there? Yeah, that was you.

Q5: Yeah, we don't have a great tradition of political film-making in this country and I know that a lot of your films have been financed almost entirely from abroad and I wondered if that was the case with this film?

KL: Yes, the producer triumphantly secured, I think, over 20 different sources of finance, mainly from Europe, some from Britain. The Film Council were supportive. Some from Ireland. And the advantage of having different sources is that nobody has you by the throat because if you've got one person holding all the money, they can tell you what to do. If it's split around and somebody from here says, ‘Well, I don't really like this bit, could you do something different?’ We can say, ‘Well, that's the French’s favourite bit really, so you've got to go and see them! [Laughter] It can work to our advantage, though it’s quite…

DC: I think that question puts the finger on the fact that many of your films have been very popular, more popular, on the Continent and Europe than here. In your experience of that, have you come up with a reason or a theory as to why that has sometimes been the case?

KL: I don't know. You can't really be exotic in your own home, can you? You're just, ‘Oh god, it's just the stuff we see every day!’ Whereas, in another country, it's still familiar, I think. The dramas are familiar but it has the slightly exotic touch of being from another country. I think that's a small part of it.

I think a bigger part is that, particularly places like France and Italy have different cinema traditions. You think of the French, René Clair and Renoir and then the French New Wave and then, with Italy, with the Neorealists and Eastern Europe cinema with Weider and Russian cinema, Swedish cinema with Bergman, Buñuel. It’s a very rich cinema tradition and quite an intellectual… I wouldn't claim to be intellectual in the way they were but it's quite an intellectual tradition. Whereas, here, we do tend to look down on that a bit and I think, because of our shared language, we're much more susceptible to American dominance.

DC: I'm going to take a question from that side now. I'll come back. Yes!
Q6: I was just thinking… the one voice that didn't occur in the film was a voice calling for pacifism. Now maybe at the time no-one argued for pacifism and maybe in that state of a military occupation it's impossible to take that position, but were you at all tempted to try and introduce someone who could have actually said something that, if they'd been listened to, then maybe everything could have turned out with a lot less bloodshed?

KL: We didn't think about it mainly because we didn't come across it in our reading and talking to people. I think the pacifist option is really quite difficult when, as an act of policy, as the guy said, the civilian population is being terrorised. I think it's quite difficult to make that stick. Obviously, I don't know enough about Gandhi in India but that obviously was an element there but we couldn't trace anything like that in Ireland.

Q6: Maybe Gandhi learned it after watching what happened in Ireland!

KL: Well, maybe he did, yes. [Laughter]

DC: Can I take a question there, please!

Q7: Hello! It seems to me that there was a lot of material and viewpoints you were trying to capture in the film. It seemed like it was quite difficult, I think, to sort of balance it altogether and I was just wondering if there were any scenes that you were kind of battling over and that ended up on the cutting room floor and what were they?

KL: Yes, there were quite a lot that we shot and didn't put in. There were several little short scenes but nothing really major. There was a scene when Sinéad is taking the message right early on and she's stopped on the road by a group of soldiers and they have some banter with her because she's a pretty girl but it didn't really work very well so we dropped it. It was quite loaded. It wasn't just good-natured chat. So we didn't cut it out because it made the Tans look good or anything. We just cut it out because, dramatically, it just didn't work. That was it, really. We had to shoot it very fast. We had 35 days to do it which was pretty quick as films go. So we had to be pretty disciplined about it.

DC: We'll take a question there, please.

Q8: As (to) the reactions you got, do you not wish that, maybe, you could have pushed the film further? As you received these reactions anyway, could you have pushed it further maybe from what you'd heard and the stories?

KL: Could we have pushed it further? Well, we did the film that we felt we needed to make... we ought to make. So no, there was no further point we wanted to go to. We just felt, for those two men and for that column, that was the story. That was the story. Because you know – implicit in the film is the fact that the Republicans are going to lose, that the Free State is going to be established. So, in a sense, that's the end of that story for them and the tragedy reaches its conclusion when Damien is shot. And, as he falls, those ideas fall with him really.
DC: Obviously the film is being released here tomorrow and it's being released simultaneously in Ireland, I think, on many, many more, many more prints. It's going to go on out many more screens which seems, in many ways, natural, as well as a reflection of our distribution system, probably, as well. I was wondering how, we've talked about the reaction, some of the pre-release reaction there's been in this country, have you got much of a sense of a reaction in Ireland, of a different reaction or of a … commentary?

KL: Yes. Oh, the reaction in Ireland has been extraordinary. It’s absolutely been extraordinary. A lot of newspaper pieces, both supportive – mainly supportive, I have to say and some critical, naturally. There's a long discussion to be had about Irish revisionist... Irish historians who are – which is a long... It's a good discussion but it's probably not for now. So there have been some critical voices, some really terrific responses.

Danny Morrison, who I've not met but have corresponded with, but he wrote a piece saying that he and a fellow Republican did not see it at all as a recruiting sergeant for the IRA but sat and grieved really through it. And I think that, given the story of those years, it seemed to us a very appropriate response, really.

DC: One more question, I think, from the audience because we're going to have to wrap up. Take one down there.

Q9: In terms of your personal philosophy and, particularly, your politics and the way you make films these days, how far do you feel you've come since Cathy Come Home? [Laughter]

KL: Oh god! I don't know how to answer that, to be honest! I mean, it's been a long road, really, with a few ups and downs. Cathy Come Home was a pretty crude piece of film- making and the biggest change was working with a cameraman called Chris Menges who taught me to look at light and that what happened in front of the camera was more important than what had happened within the camera. And so what we've worked at, over the years, is to set up something that has some emotional truth as well as physical truth about it in front of the camera that is played out in front of the camera, which you then try and photograph with some empathy.

And, also, since working with Paul Laverty, who's the writer I've worked with for a long, long time now – nine or ten years! – we've become much more interested in the kind of psychological aspects of the characters and their maturity and the kind of roots that they go back to. So, we've wrestled with that, really.

And like the two brothers in this – how can I put it? – there's a kind of hinterland there that, I hope, sort of makes everything ring true, although we didn't put a huge amount of it in the film, but there’s… we hope there's a kind of iceberg, submerged part to their relationship which is just hinted at, even before the audience know they're brothers, when Damien's taking the oath, Teddy says to him, ‘I knew you wouldn't get that train, I'd have kicked your arse if you if you had!’ Which, in a way, is the kind of patronising thing an older brother can say to his kid brother.
And, by the end, Damien's eyes hold him and Teddy has to look down. And, in a way, we felt that was one way of reading the film, that that relationship which had started as kids when they were the best of mates and then the one gets sent away and, when he comes back, has to prove himself as the older brother, the man of action. And so, in a way, we just felt... or tried to imply a lot of roots there, going deep, and I suppose that aspect of it we've got more and more interested in.

DC: Have you and Paul Laverty found a way of working which you now bring to each film or does it change a lot?

KL: It changed a bit because he lives in Spain [laughter] and so a lot of to-ing and fro-ing has to go on. No, we just knock it backwards and forwards really. But Paul writes it. I wouldn't want to claim any credit for the writing.

DC: I think we're going to have to wrap up there, so I was just going to thank you, Ken Loach, for being here tonight! [Applause]

KL: Yes and thank you! Thank you! [Applause]

EEJ: [Music] Thank you for listening to Barbican ScreenTalks.


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