After the death of her grandfather, Kim (Suzanne Maddock) finds a box with letters and a red handkerchief filled with earth. Kim starts to piece together the years just before the Second World War started in the life of her grandfather: David (Ian Hart) is unemployed and very political. Since he feels that he can’t further the communist cause in the UK, he decides to leave Liverpool and head to Spain to fight the fascists. He joins one of the paramilitary groups, the POUM and starts fighting after a very short training. But his idealism and the idealism of his co-fighters is tested in many ways.
Land and Freedom was not so much a great film, as a great political discussion caught on camera. I really enjoyed it, especially since I’m being pushed further on further left with every day that passes. (You’d think that I’d be getting mellower with age, but screw that. You’d also think that you’d grow more cynical and less idealistic with age, but screw that even harder.)
My favorite scene in the entire film was after they liberated a village and the villagers come together to decide what should happen with the land the fascists had owned/occupied. There are voices for immediate communalization, there are suggestions that it should be divided among the people and farmed separately. Questions arise whether idealism is sustainable without food and whether compromises ruin the revolution or make the revolution possible. Interesting points are raised and the audience is invited to think and decide for themselves.
Sometimes the film is a little melodramatic, sometimes it has lengths. I also could have done without the David-Blanca (Rosana Pastor) story, especially since it starts with him thinking that she must be a sex worker since she made out with a guy (at least she shuts him down profoundly on that point). But in the end, those were just minor things.
Loach teases a bit of history out of his story and it feels utterly realistic. I don’t know if its historically accurate and David is certainly a fictional character. Nevertheless it feels true – from the fighter’s idealism to the splintering of the left, these are things easily believed.
Ian Hart gives a great performance, Loach and Allen are surefooted with dialogues and characters, giving life to their politicsm, which is in turn inspiring to be more political yourself. I’m not about to go join a war, but every once in a while, a healthy dose of idealism is really needed – Land and Freedom provides that.