• Unrated, 1 hr. 46 min.
  • Drama
  • Directed By:
    Ken Loach
    In Theaters:
    Mar 15, 1996 Wide
    On DVD:
    Oct 15, 1996
  • Gramercy Pictures


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Land and Freedom Reviews

Page 1 of 14
Cassandra M

Super Reviewer

February 10, 2011
It is, perhaps, surprising that more films about the Spanish Civil War haven't been made. The Spanish landscape, the sheer ruthlessness of any civil war, and the perceived Spanish emotions all combine to make what would appear to be an attractive proposition for a film-maker. The names of Picasso and Lorca will forever have an association with the war, yet where are the artists representing cinema? All the more surprising then that it should have been British director Ken Loach who took up the cudgels. Loach is probably best known for his gritty portrayals of the British working class (and under-class), something that has, perhaps, made him more approachable outside his own country.

In tackling the Spanish Civil War any writer is faced with the overwhelming complexities that underlie the events. The regionalism (think only of the Catalan and Basque regions, let alone Galicia and Andalusia), the monarchy, the Catholic Church, landowners, trade unions, anarchists plus the leaderships of the Nationalist and Republican movements all combined to create a very tangled web. Add to that outside involvement, principally from Mussolini and Stalin, the vacillation of Britain and France and, of course, the omnipresence of Hitler, and anyone might wonder where to start.

Loach and Allen take their approach through the eyes of an unemployed Liverpudlian, David Carr (admirably played by Ian Hart) who, as a card-carrying member of the Communist Party, answers the call to fight for the Republic. We follow his exploits through a number of episodes, involving battles, falling in love, injury and, ultimately, a degree of disillusion as the reality of Stalin's views eventually come to dominate, and eventually destroy, his cause. The film is supremely well-made, highlighting the horrors, the camaraderie, and the political divisions. In particular, the debate amongst the militia about collectivisation after they have taken a small town takes no sides, but simply allows a number of valid arguments to be exposed within the context of the shifting sands of the war.

There is still ample material for the industry to go on to make more films on this important period in history. But Loach has set the benchmark.
Was the above review useful to you?

Super Reviewer

March 30, 2009
Complex portrait of events which otherwise have had very little film coverage, beautifully capturing the idealism of the protagonists, their diverging beliefs and attitudes, and the ultimate logistical barriers and strife.
December 28, 2008
KEN LOACH, which I consider to be the greatest living filmmaker working today, creates films that delve into the conflicts of the Human Condition and Social Systems --- he's equally at home criticizing the Right or the Left for their demagogic diatribes and absence of logical actions. If Cinema with a Political Foundation scares you, don't even attempt to tackle him. However, if your mind's open enough his films may just be an epiphany.
June 2, 2007
Communist film making to the core, but I love the style. The political debates between the characters are fascinating. This is a thinking man's "War Movie."
Javier H.
May 9, 2014
It relies on a dynamic storytelling and a faithful narrative (it even develops the famous Fets de Maig del 38 in a pseudo-critical view) whilst powerful military battles take place in the middle. Predictable, topic-filled and kind of propagandistic, though, but still an aceptable and curious approach to the Spanish Civil War from an international point of view.
February 28, 2014
It relies on a dynamic storytelling and a faithful narrative (it even develops the famous Fets de Maig del 38 in a pseudo-critical view) whilst powerful military battles take place in the middle. Predictable, topic-filled and kind of propagandistic, though, but still an aceptable and curious approach to the Spanish Civil War from an international point of view.
May 22, 2013
Intense drama set in the Spanish Civil War, following a young englishman's involvement in the revolution as a member of the Communist Party. Though it's an intellectual's film, Loach is also very able in transmitting the passion of a revolutionary with his raw and documentary like style which adds impact through realism.
Mark H.
November 13, 2012
A heartbreaking and inspiring film.
January 23, 2011
A beautiful film, in which I sobbed suffiecntly for it to merit that adjective. The best portrayel of the Spanish Civil War yet, told by the most suitable of directors.
Antonius B.
August 6, 2010
Land and Freedom is a British drama, directed by the English left-wing director Ken Loach, with a script written by playwright Jim Allen. His and Ken Loach?s Marxist, Trotskyist, and anti-Stalinist orientations are evidently present in the film, although it is arguably the theme of Stalinist repression of anti-franquist communist and anarchist militias in Spain during the Civil War, to be mainly portrayed. In the end, given the several disputes and scuffles between the various anti-Franco factions, we wonder, with the director: What is the point to all this?

The story develops through flashbacks, and it recounts of a David Carr, a British unemployed member of the Communist Party from Liverpool, who decides to go and fight the cause of the anti-franquist movement in the Spanish Civil War. The narration takes place through some letters Carr wrote, newspaper clippings, and other documents he collected, found and read by his granddaughter, right after his death. The film rides the wave of the leftoid socio-political movement of the 90?s, as already mentioned in this blog, with regards to La Haine and, similarly to the French film, this socio-political situation contributes greatly to its success, especially amongst certain circles.

Other themes present in the film are the anti-Clericalism, revealed with the summary execution of the priest culpable of exposing the militians to the Franquist; rudimentary feminism, given the fact that in the POUM, men and women fight together; and finally, the socialist matrix also appears, especially in the village assembly scene, where the peasants vote for the collectivization of the land. This scene is arguably one of the best of the entire movie; Loach?s pursue of realism reaches its apex here. The camera loses its perspective, and plunges the viewer right into the live situation, and the dialogues are apt and poignant, also considering that most of the actors participating to this scene were non-professionals.
Rebel Tomato
January 18, 2010
If I had to score a movie based on the number of times I've watched it this one would have to score 100%. I'm not going to though. Everything in this film is brilliantly achieved: the production, the design, the acting all work seamlessly in Loach's characteristic earthy (and often improvised) way, with more than a nod to George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia. Where it most succeeds however is in emotionally grabbing you, consoling you, then wrestling you to the floor and kicking you in the guts as you move from idealistic passion to betrayal and heartbreak along the Orwellian nightmare that was the Spanish civil war. Brilliant.
August 27, 2007
David Carr, an unemployed worker and member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, intends to join the International Brigades to fight for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. Upon crossing a border, he befriends revolutionists and ends up...(read more) enlisting in the POUM (Workers' Party of Marxist Unification, consisted mostly of amateur fighters from the working class). David is sent to the front of Aragon, where Spanish men, women, and foreign volunteers fight along in the same trenches. David develops a quick bond with other POUM militias and even shares intimacy with Blanca, the ideologue of the group. He even learns how to speak Spanish, as his unit fortunately holds English as the lingua franca. Initially the fight has very little progress, but David's unit eventually achieves its first triumph by liberating a Spanish village from the Fascists. However, Blanca's man gets shot during the process, and David blames himself for his death. There is a striking scene where a priest is executed by the POUM militias after learning from the villagers of the priest's role as a Fascist's informer.
After the funerals, the village holds meeting where different political viewpoints clash. At the end, collectivisation receives the majority of votes, appeasing the revolutionalistic minds while leaving the academical, communistic minds bitter (Lawrence argues against the collectivisation that the act is too revolutionist and would scare away supports and arms supply from the Soviets and other communistic organizations). As a consequence, the arms supply dwindle, and David has a rifle backfired for its poor quality. David is sent to a hospital and Lawrence leaves the party, upset at the POUM's ignorance to strategical methods. Recovered, David enlists in the International Brigades he initially intended to join--when Blanca learns about this, she yells at him and calling him a betrayer. During the brigades' fight against the CNT (the anarchists), an old lady caught in the no man's land yells at both parties that they should not fight among themselves, and rather focus on eliminating the Fascists. At this point, David starts to realize Stalin propagandas and grand scheme of war manipulation. He later leaves the brigades when three men insult the women of the POUM, accusing them of "fucking" the enemy instead of fighting them. Rejoined his old comrades on the front, David is finally at his place. The POUM risks their lives pushing the front line, but the supports the government promised never come... they eventually do, but horridly, they come to declare the the illegal status of the POUM instead.
Though Land and Freedom is obviously in favor of socialism, the scenes such as that of the priest, and the inevitable loss and hopelessness of the POUM do offer a certain neutral value. I find the film heartbreaking to watch, because it just penetrates you with unfairness, made very real with its historical approach. It is not entirely pessimistic though, the ending where David's granddaughter reads William Moris' poem "The Day Is Coming" tells us the audience that even though people were killed before they could achieve their causes, their spirits will live on--through literary texts, historical studies, and media such as this very film.
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