SPIRIT OF '45, THE
1945 was a pivotal year in British history. The unity that carried Britain through the war allied to the bitter memories of the inter-war years led to a vision of a better society. The spirit of the age was to be our brother's and our sister's keeper. Film from Britain's regional and national archives, alongside sound recordings and contemporary interviews, creates a rich political and social narrative. The Spirit of '45 illuminates and celebrates a period of unprecedented community spirit in the UK, the impact of which endured for many years and which may yet be rediscovered today.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If you want relevance and resonance in Australia's political climate - at the time of the film's Australian premiere at the Sydney Film Festival in June 2013 or indeed at the time of its commercial release post the 2013 election - you only have to hear one old British Labour union man bemoan the fact that the Labour party machine has been taken over by the middle class. Being a union official does not make a person working class. Indeed.
The Spirit of '45 is a fond postcard from Ken Loach from the era when British socialism with a democratic spirit gripped the nation in a post-war embrace. It all looks so rosy now, with everyone caring for everyone else, rather than the crass old class system that kept the workers in disadvantage. Nationalisation of the mines, the railways, electricity and the introduction of the National Health Service all within the first few post-war years under the landslide-winning Labour Government of Clem Attlee all add up to a watershed moment in history.
Loach uses archival footage edited together with reflective contemporary interviews with miners, railwaymen, union officials, mostly retired now - all shot in matching black and white - to paint the picture of socio-political health. His sense of cinema serves him well and he knows how to elicit emotions with the various tools at his disposal.
The spirit that the title refers to is a fusion of determination, hope and a sense of fraternity which is the driving factor. It's a spirit that is as idealistic as its ambitions in creating the welfare state, caring for the poor, the working class poor, 'from the cradle to the grave'.
Margaret Thatcher is the boo hiss villain, of course, her policies starting a landslide of privatisation that undid so much of the socialist playbook. The doco ends with the hope that Britain can go back to those days of 1945, at least in terms of socio-economic policies. Whether that is possible in a world so changed is anyone's guess, and whether it is desirable is probably debatable, which is what a good doco should do: start a debate.
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SPIRIT OF '45, THE (PG)
PRODUCER: Rebecca O'Brien, Kate Ogborn, Lisa Marie Russo
DIRECTOR: Ken Loach
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stephen Standen
EDITOR: Jonathan Morris
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 5, 2013