Director Spotlight: Ken Loach: Statuesque Talks to Loach

Your movies tend to be quite serious, would you say The Angel’s Share is the closest you’ve been to making a full on comedy?

Ken Loach: A number of the films that we’ve done have comedy in them because you can’t tell a story about people and not smile sometimes. But first, the definition of comedy itself means that that there must be a happy ending as well as making you smile. So we always try to include two or three smiles in our movies.

You’ve always been outspoken when it comes to socialism and social issues. Did you always know you wanted to make these kinds of films? Were you ever interested in pursuing other genres?

Ken Loach: If you stop making films that concern social matters, the way people live together, the way they live, then you’re not being democratic. In the end you come to certain conclusions about the way in which the world is organized, who benefits and who loses in the larger scheme of things. Apart from the films we’re not truly democrat, are we, If we don’t take part of the public debate.

One of the greatest things about your work is that you don’t recur to sensationalism; you don’t exploit poverty or social issues. How do you find the exact balance to avoid falling into this trap?

Ken Loach: I don’t know. We try. It’s recognizing the common humanity, rather than seeing these characters as victims, you see the individual, it’s not patronizing, it’s respecting the characters and respecting their value. Not laughing at them, or pity, pity is undermining. 

You’re also quite reserved when it comes to manipulation. I’m thinking how in The Wind That Shakes the Barley for example you know exactly where to end the movie, without stretching the potential melodrama of the last scene. How have you achieved that?

Ken Loach: I hope this is true and it is kind of you to say so. I hope that’s true. I hate the music that tells you what to think, it’s better to be discrete, observe without weighing us down, without melodramatic music. Cool observation is more effective because it is truthful.

Your films are often more male-centric. However Ladybird Ladybird mostly centers on Crissy Rock’s character. Was the process of making this movie any different?

Ken Loach: No, not really. Not at all. We’ve got a lot of strong women in films, not just a single one. We try to have as many strong men as women in our films. We did films about strong female characters, for example Carla’s Song is about a woman involved with the revolution in Nicaragua, there’s also movies about women who have relationships with Asian men, the women’s points of views are equally important to us.

What surprises you the most about your own filmography. What do you think the man who directed Kes would think of the man who made The Angel’s Share?

Ken Loach: (laughs…silence) He’d be surprised he’s still here. He’s surprised he’s still doing it. He’d think he’s been lucky so far.

Do you think socialist changes are possible within the capitalist world of film production?

Ken Loach: They’re possible, capitalists know the system is collapsing, economies in Europe are disintegrating, we have Greece and Spain and Cyprus… in Britain it’s not collapsing on the same scale but it is happening. The question isn’t is socialism possible, but is capitalism possible?

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The Angels’ Share is now playing in theaters and on demand.