The Wind That Shakes the Barley is one of those disappointing historical films which is so ridiculously one sided that you feel cheated out of any historical analysis and instead feel like you are being lectured to. It’s also unfortunate that the film maker has used such a style-less style of filmmaking which makes the movie feel like something you’d watch in a history class instead of something you’d actually want to pay money to see in a cinema.
In The Wind That Shakes the Barley, right and wrong are so clearly evident that there is never a doubt as to who has the moral high ground and who are bloody monsters. The film pretends to have a bit of a debate about political choices about ¾s of the way through but it’s all just for show. The film never lets you forget what’s “right.” The film never wavers in its convictions.
Watch to see how often you see the “heroes” of the film shed blood. Sure they kill but it’s always justified and there is rarely blood. Believe me, we see lots of the blood when the “bad guys” are the ones doing the killing. The British are chaotic madmen who resemble Nazis in this propaganda. There is never one suggestion as to why the British soldiers are acting the way they are. When I watch this sort of film, I feel I am being insulted as an intelligent audience member. I know that these conflicts are always more complicated than that. Why do they think I will be fooled so easily?
History just isn’t this clean and this tight. Imagine watching a film where the Palestinians were soulless savages and the Israelis noble martyrs. Now imagine the exact reverse. That’s the kind of film The Wind That Shakes the Barley is. I need more in my historical analysis to be entertained. I need more if I am not going to be insulted. The Wind That Shakes the Barley may be a prize winner but the jury at Cannes has been known to get it wrong before.