Friday, 28 June 2013

Spirit of '45 (2013)

Well, all I can really say is get this on the school syllabus now!

This is a fantastic documentary feature from Ken Loach which explores in depth the poverty of the 1930s, the war years and just what brought Clement Attlee, and the finest Labour/Socialist government this country has ever seen into power, as well as looking at its triumphs.

Loach elicits intimate talking heads with many ordinary people who are old enough to remember '45 and the years before it, and those whose lives were changed for the better. Their recollections are life affirming, heart warming and often utterly poignant and tragic. What stands out however is their collective faith in a belief that there is always a better way. A way that men like Attlee as PM and the great Nye Bevan as Health and Housing Minister paved the way for.

Like Loach's dramatic films, there are no fancy directorial or cinematic flourishes, the only concession to style here is that the whole features is drenched in black and white to fit in with the archive footage. It is only in the final moments that we get to see the VE Day celebrations in glorious technicolour, making us feel a closer bond to those young men and women, triumphant and hopeful for the future ahead. A future that helped shape us.


It is in the last half hour that the film rightfully takes a different turn, focusing on Thatcher's despicable tenure and the destruction of the Attlee legacy. All the good work in this country set up by his government was dismantled and discarded in favour of individualistic success and material gain. It's sombre stuff, for someone like me who grew up under the horrors of Tory rule, but equally terrifying to consider that we've let the bastards back in now, and with no meaningful opposition in our court. Which is why this film needs to be seen by the next generation. Now.

If I have one criticism it is that Loach shies away from attacking New Labour in these final stages. The Blair and Brown government had a considerable tenure to reform and return us back to the socialist ideals but they did not. New Labour was a betrayal of all the party should stand for. Only a couple of talking heads allude to this disappointing turn of events.

Nevertheless, on the whole, this is a film to stir the hearts and hopefully reawaken the consciousness. It's time to realise that there is a better life out there and that we have the means to create it, not just for ourselves, but for everyone if we work together. It's happened before, let's make something good happen again for a change.

The film's website is great stuff, including an app that allows you to work out just what kind of life you'd have had in '45. Take a look HERE

Spirit of '45 received its premiere on Film 4 this week and will be broadcast again at 11:15pm this Sunday 30th June. Watch it!

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