The Spirit of '45

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“A lament, a celebration and a wake-up call to modern politicians and voters.”   — Dave Calhoun, Time Out London

Director: Ken Loach
Year: 2013
Country: UK
Running time: 94 mins
Genres: Politics

Producers: Rebecca O’Brien, Kate Ogborn, Lisa Marie Russo
Photography: Stephen Standen
Editor: Jonathan Morris
Music: George Fenton
Sound: Paul Parsons, Kevin Brazier, Ian Tapp
Colour and B&W/DCP

With: Eileen Thompson, Dr Julian Tudor Hart, Dai Walters, Sam Watts, Ray Davies, Tony Mulhearn, Doreen McNally, John Farrell, Dot Gibson, Tony Benn, Harry Keen, John Rees, Raphie de Santos, James Meadway

Festivals: Berlin 2013

Switching from populist feature (The Angels’ Share) to polemical documentary, Ken Loach summons lively archive footage and colourful survivor testimony to evoke the collective spirit that won World War II and carried over into the 1945 Labour election victory (at the expense of wartime leader Winston Churchill). The nationalisations and cradle-to-grave health care policies that Attlee’s government established so extensively were precisely the ‘society’ that Thatcher decreed did not exist and proceeded to close down or sell off. Loach’s reassertion of the old one-for-all values is explicitly directed at defending what little is left from further privatisation but it’s tempting to see it too as his counter blast to the hubbub of the wicked witch’s funeral.  (Knowing where his audience lies, he shock-cuts to her quoting St Francis.)

“Viewers of the opposing political persuasion may instantly gripe about a lack of balance – there’s nothing but adoring words for trade unions – but demanding balance from a Ken Loach film is a little like wanting a goat to do a handstand. The footage his researchers have unearthed for Britain’s surges of industry and initiative in those Labour years is marvellous, and when he alights on subjects that really fire up passion, such as the founding principles of the National Health System, and the piecemeal privatisation that threatens its future, the movie feels like a salutary reminder of exactly what Ken Loach is for.” — Tim Robey, Daily Telegraph