DVDs: Can a Movie Change Your Mind?

How easily a film can be misunderstood. Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes The Barley tackles the prickly subject of British troops occupying Ireland and the men and women who rise up to fight against them. As a British subject (born in Bermuda) with Irish blood who has spent most of his life in America, I can see all sides to the conflict and be dispassionate. But almost no one in England or Ireland can.

A few scenes of British soldiers mocking and belittling Irish men caused outcries that the film was anti-British (often claimed by those who hadn't seen it), even though they're balanced by another scene where a British soldier describes his despair and pain at the situation they're in.

Lost in the shuffle is the quiet, heartbreaking film itself, which follows two brothers (one played by the eerily beautiful Cillian Murphy) who join the IRA in the early 1900s to fight against the British and then get drawn into the Irish Civil War of the Twenties. It won the top prize at Cannes in 2006 and went on to be Loach's biggest box office hit to date. But since Loach's box office is invariably modest and it barely made a ripple in the US even among critics, it deserves to be discovered again on DVD.

There you will discover one of the film's painful, central truths: how violence corrupts and corrodes. The violence begins with attacks on foreign soldiers occupying your country. Then it spreads to killing Irish people you've never met who collaborate with them. Then it spreads to killing friends you've known all your life who cracked under torture and pain of death and suddenly you find yourself pointing a gun at your own flesh and blood.

None of this undermines the political arguments at play in wanting the British gone. It's just the way it goes - war is hell, even if the war is justified. And violence is poisonous. But seeing how violence turns on you so quickly should give anyone pause about turning to it before all other options are exhausted. Twice. Don't miss this one.

Other DVDs out this week: Shakespeare Was A Big George Jones Fan: Cowboy Jack Clement's Home Movies ($19.98; Shout), a ramshackle celebration of the maverick Nashville songwriter, producer and all-around Falstaffian nut; A Curtain Raiser & Other Shorts ($29.95; Kino), works by the deliriously talented and diverse director Francois Ozon; the acerbic and entertaining sitcom It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia Seasons 1 & 2 (Fox; $39.98); Cheech and Chong's Up In Smoke ($14.98; Paramount), which unlike the drug it celebrates has not grown stronger with the passage of time; The City Of Violence ($24.95; Weinstein Co.) which is admirably restrained on boring plot points and common sense and admirably unrestrained in nifty action sequences; The Office Season Three ($49.98; Universal), a sitcom which keeps getting better and 30 Rock Season 1 ($49.98; Universal), a sitcom which might; Demetri Martin Person ($19.98; HBO), a stand-up act from the Daily Show correspondent who proves himself an amusing combination of Henny Youngman and Stephen Wright (the further away he gets from standard standup the better he is); the somewhat improved third season of Desperate Housewives ($59.99; Buena Vista); the dull second season of Prison Break ($59.98; Fox), which looks like it should have been a one-season telenovela and called it a day; the Miss Marple-like Hetty Wainthropp Investigates: The Complete Collection ($149.99; Acorn), who has naughty taste in sidekicks; and Alibi ($24.95; Kino), a little-known but remarkably stylized gangster flick from 1929.

So The Wind That Shakes The Barley tackled the troubles, Michael Moore took on one of America's darkest days with Fahrenheit 9-11, the TV movie The Day After got people thinking about nuclear weapons and Tony Kaye's upcoming Lake Of Fire sets a match to the topic of abortion. What's your favorite movie that dove into an anguished, difficult issue? My guess is we're drawn to those that already reflect our views but perhaps there's one that changed your mind? I have a friend who became anti-capital punishment after watching an episode of Hill Street Blues so it can happen.