Whatever comes with being perhaps the most-recognized British director of his time, Ken Loach still hasn’t seen every one of his films reach American shores. Thus a pleasant surprise the great people at The Film Desk will release his 2013 documentary The Spirit of ’45, which charts England’s pre-war poverty, post-war boom, aspirational welfare state, and the battles Thatcher et al. waged on blue-collar wellbeing. Yes, that’s a Ken Loach movie all right.
Ahead of next week’s debut at Film Forum, we’re pleased to debut a trailer that beautifully showcases Loach’s project––in just 90 seconds mingling decades’ worth of archival footage, present-day testimony, and a sense of Spirit‘s scale.
“The Second World War was a struggle, perhaps the most considerable collective struggle this country has ever experienced,” Loach said. “While others made greater sacrifices, the people of Russia for example, the determination to build a better world was as strong here as anywhere. Never again, it was believed, would we allow poverty, unemployment and the rise of fascism to disfigure our lives. We had won the war together, together we could win the peace. If we could plan to wage military campaigns, could we not plan to build houses, create a health service and a transport system, and to make goods that we needed for reconstruction? The central idea was common ownership, where production and services were to benefit all. The few should not get rich to the detriment of everyone else. It was a noble idea, popular and acclaimed by the majority. It was the Spirit of 1945. Maybe it is time to remember it today.”
Watch the preview below and stay tuned for word on Ken Loach’s next film, arriving this year:
William Blake’s reference to ‘these dark Satanic Mills’ ends with an exhortation to ‘build Jerusalem in England’s green & pleasant land.’ Ken Loach features these words in his powerful, unabashedly pro-socialist documentary of England’s postwar transformation from a working-class hellscape in the 1930s. Endemic poverty and Dickensian squalor (children sleeping five to a vermin-infested bed, with only cereal to eat) are upended by Clement Attlee’s 1945 Labour Party landslide over the patrician Winston Churchill. What follows is the nationalization of the mines, railways, and postal service. Most significantly, the jewel in the crown, is the National Health Service, which made medical care free of charge. Every story needs a good villain, and Margaret Thatcher’s 1979 election does the trick. Loach masterfully collages first-person accounts of prewar England with archival footage that exposes the disparity between everyday reality and the myth of the Greatest Empire on Earth.
The Spirit of ’45 opens on March 17 at Film Forum.