Ken Loach’s documemoir to a glorious Labour past – Clement Atlee’s landslide victory of 1945 – is less a rose-tinted portrait of a golden age than it is a rosy-red indictment of present Tory policies and the modern age of austerity.
Taking a leaf from fellow film-maker Terence Davies, whose Of Time and the City shone a harsh yet warm spotlight on his Liverpudlian childhood, warts and all, The Spirit of ’45 evokes memories of the immediate post-war years where ordinary folk spoke out and the Government listened to them and acted for them.
Real voices describe life in a changing Britain as war gave way to peace and, with the creation of the NHS, Joe Public no longer had to worry about paying for good health. There was work, there was prosperity, there was hope for a better future.
Such an optimistic approach inevitably gives way to bitterness as Loach parallels the optimism of seven decades ago with 21st century pessimism and misery.
The villain in the black hat is Margaret Thatcher and there is much trenchant finger pointing at her 80s heyday as the root of David Cameron’s policies and beliefs.
Tony Benn makes an unsurprising appearance among the union activists, dockers and miners to further colour the pink hue with his commentary.
Yet Loach’s film is far from being just a careful selection of old Lefties warbling an out-of-tune (and out-of-time) version of the Red Flag.Instead it is a plea, albeit laced with propagandist fervour, for a return to a better time.