During World War Two the British government recruited and trained units based in remote areas to resist a German occupation. Resistance opens with the half-dozen men in an isolated Welsh sheep-farming valley taking off in the middle of the night to join their resistance unit. The Wehrmacht have captured Moscow and Leningrad, repulsed the Normandy landings and invaded southern England. Within a few days a German patrol arrives in the Welsh valley and declares it under military control.
Owen Sheers’ original novel shows how the women left behind co-operate. It sensuously communicates what it feels like to work with animals on rough land in all weather. It is sensitive about the women’s personal feelings and awareness of each other – and of the occupying soldiers. Crucially it is through labour, when the soldiers go out to help rescue sheep in a snow blizzard, that the women start to accept the usefulness, and so the presence, of the soldiers.
Sadly, the film mechanically (though Sheers is credited as a co-writer) works through the scenes in the novel, but too often fails to get over the emotional and psychological significance. Little things too betray a failure to engage imaginatively with the situation – clothes are clean and new; a sniper rifle, hidden in a farmyard shit-heap in the book, is conveniently stashed under bedroom floorboards in the film. This is sterilized BBC costume drama.
This first appeared in our award-winning magazine - to read more, subscribe from just £7