Bill Douglas has an eye for fresh detail, the rituals of rural life, and the dignity of countryfolk. Rarely before have the poverty, the pains and the pleasures, the oppressiveness of the work routine, even of the weather, been so well conveyed on film.
However, because so much time is spent on building up this rich tapestry of rural England in the 1830s, the focus is lost.
Eventually one pieces together that the Tolpuddle Martyrs, film’s subject, were a small group of peasant craftsmen who dared to form a union and ask for higher wages. They were singled out for their subversion by the British authorities and transported to Australia. After a public outcry they were subsequently recalled to England.
Although there is a unique vision at work in Comrades it’s a pity that more ruthlessness in scripting and editing was not exercised.