The Spirit of ’45
The Internet Movie Database cites the Top Billed cast of this film as Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee – a rather cute misnomer, since the former Prime Ministers of Great Britain do indeed appear in footage, but not in the traditional talking-heads convention of documentaries.
Polemicist Ken Loach’s latest feature dances away from the whisky-laced whimsy of last year’s The Angel’s Share and back in time to the real world of post-WWII Britain, as a nation voted in a brand new Labour government and vowed not to let the country fall into the poverty and hopelessness of the 1930s “ever again”.
Loach crafts a potted history from archive footage (curated by Jim Anderson, who serviced Terence Davies’ sublime ode to Liverpool Of Time and the City to similarly magnificent effect) and present day interviews with those who grew up under the regimes, from Welsh miners to Liverpudlian dock workers to the (then) young girl who recalls her father carrying the notification of allocation of a council house in his wallet until his dying day.
The result is a fascinating trip through decades of political and social upheaval which saw working class Britain served by its most socialist government to date. Loach does not shy away from pinning his political colours to the mast, but his film is not weakened by eschewing balance even when, towards the end, Margaret Thatcher takes the screen as she enters Downing Street, and the ensuing decades of asset sales and privatisation are spelt out.
The Spirit of ’45 will have special resonance for those who lived through the years of its narrative, but its object lesson is no less relevant nor compelling for those of us living sixty years later, half a world away.