When at the helm of fictional films, director Ken Loach has frequently demonstrated an uncompromising sensibility that is decidedly leftish, so it should come as no surprise that the documentary he has now turned his hand to comes complete with an agenda.
The Spirit of ’45 is a celebration of the mood of the nation at the end of WWII and how it brought about the surprise election of the 1945 Labour government.
It also celebrates their achievements and ticks the boxes of the reforms they brought about, such as education and the NHS, which we take for granted today. The nationalised industries were really the only reform that didn’t do so well.
Loach assembles an array of talking heads for his documentary, mainly trade unionists from that time, or their descendants, politicians such as Tony Benn and modern day academics, and they look back at that time with a wistful admiration with barely a dissenting voice amongst them.
This all makes you wonder how Labour failed to win their second term and Conservatives got back in and once the chronological journey reaches 1951 and the Festival of Britain, we abruptly jump to the Thatcher years, and Loach shows how her government single-handedly virtually destroyed everything that had been achieved by the spirit of ’45, events that many over a certain age will remember all too well.
The early sections are nothing if not fascinating as there is some illuminating stuff in amongst the footage that has been sourced from both national and regional archives, with some vintage sound recordings adding to the appeal. The only really criticism is Loach’s decision to shoot the talking heads in black and white, which sometimes leaves you wondering whether you are watching archive material or contemporary interviews.