War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
I was apprehensive of this children’s book mostly because I get very sad with animal stories. I remember watching Black Beauty (1994) as a kid, and being crying. I rarely cried during movies when I was younger, and even now, it’s not that common for me. But animals are a soft spot for me, especially when they are exploited.
I remember reading All Quiet on the Western Front and being appalled by the idea that horses were sent into battle in the First World War. It’s abhorrent to have animals fighting and dying for our wars and that war was costly in itself.
This novel is an antiwar novel and it also demonstrates the human kindness between man and animal. A lot of the characters interact with Joey the horse and through war, they receive what is now known as animal therapy. There is much love and respect between the men and horses in this film and rightly so.
The book is not very long and only took me 1.5 hours to read it (with breaks). The prose is simple but beautiful. The messages are clear and I really enjoyed it. Maybe all the positivity did go slightly to the cheesy side for some, but it worked for me. There is death, but this is a story of hope of course. Is it realistic? Not necessarily, but there is a lot of love in it which works for me.
I really think it’s a lovely book for children. I don’t believe children should be coddled and it’s a book that teaches history as much as animal rights. Recommended.
Read May 17th 2013
War Horse (2011)
I was not looking forward to this movie for the same reason as the book. It can be tough watching movies where animals suffer or die. Still, a movie with Steven Spielberg and British actors is hard to say no for me. Spielberg is very good at war movies, maybe oo good in fact. I knew the acting and the directing had to be at least decent.
I seem to also like horse movies. I’ve seen Seabiscuit and Secretariat. I was never crazy about horses as a girl like other girls I knew who tacked pictures of horses on their wall. I do like horses though, and in an alternate universe where I live a posher lifestyle, I’d definitely have tried it out. They are beautiful creatures.
The movie’s pacing was slower than the book. It took much longer to establish the connection between Joey and Albert. Furthermore, the movie started off more comically than the book which is understandable since it can get very grim and dark with the war scenes for the rest of the film.
The war scenes were quintessentially Spielberg and my eyes were not dry in a couple of scenes. Symbols are important in his movies such as the pennant that carried through this film. The shot of Joey going through the trenches was wonderfully directed as was the last scene in the movie. When Joey ran through No Man’s Land, I shrieked. I was genuinely very worried for the horse too. It freaked me out. Also, I totally cried at the end.
The acting was solid all around. I liked seeing Tom Hiddleston and Benedict Cumberbatch in the same scenes. They have two of the best voices around.
As for adaptation, they changed some of the characters and they added a sad story about two German brothers. The vignette nature of the story didn’t always work in the movie though. In a strange way, there wasn’t enough of the horse stuff. The book is written from the horse’s perspective so I missed hearing from the horse. I still think the spirit of the book was there for the most part.
Again, I kept thinking how ridiculous that war was. Wars are senseless, but the First World War or the Great War as it is called boggles the mind in many ways. Millions of men and horses dying for what? A couple of feet of land?
All in all, I think it was a decent movie albeit slow in parts. I think those who enjoyed the book would enjoy the movie. I do not think it is essential watching, but a decent WWI and horse film.
Watched May 18 2013.