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The Spirit of ’45


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Loach’s latest feature-length documentary gives a fascinating glimpse of Britain’s immediate post-war history.

Image of The Spirit of ’45

Showing @ Filmhouse, Edinburgh until Thu 21 Mar

Ken Loach / UK / 2013 / 94 min

Friday night saw 40.63% of us tune into Comic Relief. Not dismissing this organisation’s achievements (upwards of £680m raised since 1988), one can’t help but hear the words of Oscar Wilde; “They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keeping the poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, by amusing the poor”. Friday also saw the release of renowned British filmmaker, Ken Loach’s latest project The Spirit of ’45. And though this feature-length documentary – a mixture of archive footage and interviews – certainly won’t get the same viewing figures, it offers a fascinating counterview.

What this film does magnificently is capture the hope of the many at the birth of the social-democratic era. Hearing about hardened colliers bursting into tears at Attlee’s victory, or people’s joy at receiving medical attention and not having to worry about the bill, is genuinely moving, while the collective anger at Thatcher’s ‘reforms’ can be contagious. However, glossing over the period between the Conservative victories of ’51 and ’79 does leave the film open to accusations of propaganda. But why not be partial? Loach definitely achieves what he set out to and, to return to Oscar, you may be left believing that the answer really isn’t charity but “to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible.”