Political Cinema in Shattered Times : Jimmy´s Hall & Night Moves

In these highly political times, two quiet but nevertheless breathtaking political movies are still to be seen in berlin cinemas, so I´d like to say a few words about them after seeing them last week.  The new Ken Loach movie “Jimmy´s Hall” and Kelly Reichhard´s “Night Moves”.

Although Jimmy´s Hall is  a story that takes part in the 30ies and the plot of Night Moves is set up nowadays, there are several parallels to be found in both movies: the story is quasi – documentary –  in the Ken Loach film directly based on the story of Jimmy Gralton, an irish communist who moved away to New York in the roaring 20ies but returned 1o years later to support the irish struggle for independence and opened in the small village a self administrated hall for dancing, debating, painting,  boxing or poetry lectures,  soon well known as “Jimmy´s Hall”. The catholic church fought with all their power against this free “antichrist” space and in the end, Jimmy has to flee his village,  but is cought by the collaborating police and is expelled to the US as the only native Irishmen ever. To this documented story, Loach adds a few fictional elements like the love story of Jimmy with his old love.

In Night Moves,  there is not a concrete archetype case nor is it based on a book (although there was a controversy about this film having too much similarites with the book: The Monkey Wrench Gang) but the story of a group of enviromentalists is playing on a farm in a modern alternative eco-project in Oregon. Kelly Reichard explains in a interview with indiekino berlin, that this actual existing farm was the starting point of the movie and the amateur actors were casted for this movie there, too,  so the story was –  as she explains later – a natural consequence of the debates of the political culture in this ecological scene and the people living on this farm.

But there are more similarities:  Both films play in the deep countryside and not in big cities, far from modern technology,  but in both movies you´ll find utopian micro-states like the ecological project space  in Night Moves or the people of Jimmy´s Hall in the village in Ireland.

As well, the main actors has to flee in both movies in the end into illegality, step out of reality and leave the normal life and cope with the consequences of being “outside(r)”.  So here it comes to the current debated political questions of leaving home, being a refugee, loosing securities as well as lacking a place of something called “home”.

Although both movies ask the moral justification of the actions – in Jimmy´s Hall in concrete the actions of the police, the church and Jimmy and in Night Moves it questions the morality of the terroristic act in it´s naiv theory and in practice, after it´s clear,  that something went terribly wrong, none of the films is painting a simple black and white picture of good and evol. We really see the fears of the pastor, we really feel the fears of one of the main actors Joey in Night Moves that his involved Friend will talk about the actions and his uncapability to cope with that situation – and moreover we see in his lonelyness and his falling out of society the weakness of the actors and the hero turns into an anti-hero.

Maybe Night Moves is a dark Dystopia (although Reichard rejects, this being a political film in an interview in left wing magazine konkret, august 2014)  whilst Jimmy´s Hall is more a picture of a communist or communitarian utopia (turned then into a tragedy),  that could never be one to one transfered into our time, but seen in its struggle and in its part-time sucess and mere existence as an warm, emotional symbol of how these days wars and conflicts should be solved or at least discussed – in contrary to the naive blind actionism of the night moves protagonists, who seem to have not debated the consequences of their actions in advance at all :

In the symbol of Jimmy´s Hall.








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