Issue 222 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published August/September 1998 Copyright © Socialist Review
All love and war
Land Girls Dir: David Leland
Land Girls is an enjoyable film set in the Second World War. The story is based around three young women who join the Women's Land Army, which conscripted women to help agricultural production during the war and to replace the young men leaving the farms to fight the war. The three main characters are Stella, Prue and Ag, who are all from different class backgrounds, and who are thrown together through the land army in Dorset. Prue is a young working class woman, very down to earth and a shock to both Stella and Ag, themselves from more middle class backgrounds.
Joe, the son of the farmer where they work, is a centre of attention for the young women; Prue who wants to 'have him', Stella who fails in love with him, and Ag who wants to try him out. Joe's ambition is to be a pilot and thus relieve his frustration at being stuck on the farm while the war takes place, but his attention is diverted as the young women arrive. The war is portrayed through the lives of the people on the farm. The farmer has the ministry of agriculture on his back to plough more land. His wife finds her life is brightened by the land girls arriving. The land girls themselves are concerned with 'doing their bit' on the farm, having a good time, and finding and maintaining relationships with young men.
The film shows how the war is at the same time both central to people's circumstances and incidental in their lives. When the local town parade occurs there is a cameo of the women in the town who raise money to buy Spitfires to help the war effort, and at the local dance in the evening the music is stopped to announce that Japan has attacked Pearl Harbour which is seen as great because the US is now on 'our' side. There is a sense, however, that the war is intensifying, something which is not relished by the majority of the characters.
The war smashes directly into their lives when a German fighter crash lands in a field. As the pilot climbs out of the plane Joe runs to try and save him, putting out the flames on his back. The pilot dies, but the film shows how human decency cannot be destroyed even by the most brutal war. It's at this point in the film that Stella and Joe realise that they have fallen in love, Stella, despite herself, for she is engaged to an officer. The dream of their future keeps her fiancé from thinking of the horrors of the war that he fights. Joe cannot believe his luck, that this woman who is socially above him fails in love with him. However, when Stella finds that her fiancé has been injured in the war she cannot leave him. Joe waits for her return at the station for a week.
After the war we learn that despite the change in people's situations which took place then, the stage had already been set, and people returned to the lives they had before. Joe is frustrated with his lot on the farm and Stella is able to set up her own business. The film shows that neither love nor war can cut across class, but despite its own visible conclusions it also infers that as long as you have hope everything's all right.