Ken Loach - sentimentally refined leftist
In past, the doors of Croatian movie theatres did not open gladly to Kenneth Loach’s films, in spite of his many decades of creative work and enviable reputation in Europe. Moreover, when his film Land and Freedom (1995) was last shown here ten years ago, the public was rather negative towards Loach’s nostalgia, because of which the pioneer of British free cinema, Lindsey Anderson, called him a sentimental leftist. Only a few of our film critics dared to write positive reviews of his film, which openly laments the betrayed revolution of the Spanish civil war. On the other hand, members of the European Film Academy voted it the best film of that year. Even so, one of our film critics, as brave as Loach himself, went so far as to put Loach on the top of his list for that year, honoring not just the director’s unpopular beliefs and alleged favor of partisans, but also his indisputable and often ignored directing bravura. At the same time, in the magic festival triangle of Cannes-Berlin-Venice, Loach was “pampered” like a rare specimen, and in the last fifteen years, almost all of his films have won respectable awards.
Loach was often proclaimed an anarcho-syndicalist and a Trotskyite, but he never hid his ideological convictions even though he had many problems because of them. In his home country, he often came across financial barriers, censorship and controversial reactions. He once said that he had spent more time on defending his films than creating them. Indeed, an Oxford dropout and a wannabe actor who decided to portray problems of the working class, could never interest many people. Such films usually become popular only when garnished with a certain amount of refined local color (such as in Mike Leigh’s films) or Pirandello’s humor. Loach’s films have been characterized, since his beginnings on BBC when he was under the strong influence of the socialist regime and methods of free cinema, (e.g. Cathy Come Home, 1966), by naturalism, authentic ambiance and local character, situational humor without literal comedy, humanistic engagement without mellifluous sympathy. His films are bitter and sometimes very pessimistic dramas in which the heroes cannot escape their origin and social class. Nevertheless, Loach puts people before any politics or ideology.
This characteristic is evident in Loach’s feature films more than in his documentaries (e.g. A Question of Leadership, 1980/93; Which Side Are YOu On?, 1984) and (TV) dramas (Family Life, Black Jack, Looks and Smiles etc.), in which he more freely expressed his political inclinations. The preference of an individual for a group or an idea is best seen in Loach’s masterpiece Kes (1969). In this film, Loach gave up the documentary methods of free cinema and used a refined and unobtrusive observation of the main character’s daily life. The director emphasizes the story with lyrical passages about a fifteen-year-old boy’s friendship with a hawk. This friendship compensates for the boy’s lack of love and attention in his dysfunctional family, repressive school and harsh social surroundings. However, Loach did not succeed in suggestively ordering all the elements (social, psychological and visual) that brought Kes well above the average British film production. Until his political thriller Hidden Agenda (1990), which caused turbulent reactions because of its sympathy towards the opponents of the British regime in Northern Ireland, Loach was never the center of attention.
Unfortunately, the program of Loach’s films in Tuškanac stops with this film. And that is a shame, because he is a crafty, talented and refined director who created many philanthropic and socially engaging films, such as Riff-Raff (1991), Raining Stones (1993), Ladybird, Ladybird (1994), Land and Freedom (1995), Clara's Song (1996), My Name is Joe (1998), Sweet Sixteen (2002).