Lisa Schwarzbaum
April 19, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Land and Freedom

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
Unrated
runtime
109 minutes
performer
Iciar Bollain, Ian Hart
director
Ken Loach
genre
Drama, War

We gave it an A-

British director Ken Loach, champion of the grimy working bloke (Raining Stones; Ladybird, Ladybird), takes an unpromisingly complicated aspect of modern European history — conflict among antifascist fighters during the 1936 Spanish civil war — and turns out a compelling dramatic story with Land and Freedom. The human passions at the heart of the ideological struggles are represented by Ian Hart (Backbeat) as David, an enthusiastic Liverpudlian Communist volunteer who learns about love, disillusionment, and loyalty during his stint on the Spanish front lines. The differences that turned comrade against comrade are captured in an unlikely but effective centerpiece — a long, jumbled all-village meeting about ”collectivizing” land liberated from Franco’s control. By setting the story in flashback, as a contemporary teenager pores over granddad David’s mementos (including an old red neckerchief tied around a handful of sacred Spanish soil) and finds inspiration in his commitment, Loach cleverly if not so subtly brings the class struggle back to his own English backyard.

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