You will not forget David or Blanca or any of their comrades and you will be grateful for a film so strong that it pulls you to its center.


A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.

In "Land and Freedom," Director Ken Loach and writer Jim Allen have captured the most elusive of all film subjects: the scorching strength of humanists fighting for their ideals against long odds. The Spanish Civil War was the last war that offered an ideal strong enough to draw young idealists from all over the world to offer their lives for it.

Students, academics, writers, intellectuals, and ordinary people lured by injustice boarded local trains and made their ways from home to Spain. Fresh off the trains, they fought in their woolen sweaters and sports jackets, in whatever they had worn when they had left home.

One such was David (Ian Hart), an unemployed youth from Liverpool, who joined the Communist Party in England ("it was the only one that was doing anything"), left for Barcelona, and was welcomed immediately into the POUM, a ragtag international group dedicated to the defeat of Franco, the Fascists, and defenders of privilege. It seemed so simple: everyone was fighting in support of the democratically elected Republican government.

This superb film tells the story of this unit as it fights in the beautiful Spanish hills, at first full of the clarity of its mission, later bedeviled by confusion when the Communist Party takes control of the antifascist forces. As the Party formalizes the revolution, the Briton, the Scot, the Pole, the German, and the Italian feel utterly betrayed.

Robbed of their identity and pride by the Communist takeover of their revolution, the POUM loses heart. They had arrived as a truckfull of recruits babbling in all languages. They were dropped with their packs on a hillside, where they made themselves into a fighting unit. They elected their officers and talked decisions through. They fought next to the two women who matched them in dedication and ability. They made friendships from the depth of their souls. And then they were betrayed.

War was intimate sixty years ago, when soldiers were idealists, weapons were guns, and battles were won in the village square. But the cause exacted its price, as families found their own in the fields, as paintings were burned, and citizens executed. When the village was won, the argument began: should each man work his land, or should they all work the collective? Over this, they splintered further.

Idealists are the conscience of the world, but if the time is not right for their movement, they are inevitably overwhelmed. The POUM could not survive the Communist Party. Against this landscape of historic issues, Loach and Allen have managed to film a deeply affecting story of friendship and love and the human spirit. You will not forget David or Blanca or any of their comrades, and you will be grateful for a film so strong that it pulls you to its center. It is beautifully done, with all the rough edges and genuine interaction of an international cast. It is also unbearably sad.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 595
Studio : Gramercy Pictures
Rating : NR

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