Wednesday, 15 February 2012

War Horse.

Lindsay Taylor gave her normal informative introduction to Steven Spielberg’s latest epic War House (2011) at a recent Robert Burns Cinema’s Film Club evening. The cinema was approximately 75% full to hear her tell us that War Horse started life in the Devon village of Iddesleigh the home of author Michael Morpurgo. In 1982 he wrote the children’s novel after meeting World War 1 veterans who one way or another were involved with horses during the Great War, these animals were used for cavalry, pulling cannons, ambulances and various other vehicles. When Morpurgo looked into the subject further he discovered that the death toll among these beasts was horrendous. Out of the million horses that were transported abroad to assist the war effort only 62,000 returned. But in saying that the British male population was greatly devastated and it is reckoned that 886,000 men died, 2% of the total population.  Lindsay went on to tell us that the book was adapted from a very successful stage play by Nick Stafford in 2007 which she had the privilege of seeing at the Royal National-Olivier Theatre on the South Bank in London which combined puppetry (the horses) with live action. Although the author had tried to adapt his book into a film screenplay previously it was not until the end of 2009 when Dream Works acquired the rights for the book and Lee Hall along with Richard Curtis successfully wrote a screenplay based more on the narrative approach of the play rather than the book, using real horses and not using the animal to narrate the story. The film is about the life of one particular horse and follows him from his birth before the war, his relationship with various people including a Devon farm lad and his family, a British cavalry officer, a stint in the German army and an old French jam maker and his granddaughter.

Technically proficient but..........
I suppose it will not come as a surprise that this film will be an obvious success in this country taking into account the British love of all things furry.  But if you remove your animal loving blinkers I think your find that this episodic saccharine coated sanitised period piece is probable one of the worst picture’s Mr Spielberg has inflicted upon us since The Adventures of Tin Tin (2011). Don’t get me wrong its technically very proficient, although it does appear to have been filmed through a haze of false sentimentality, with chocolate box Dartmoor never looking more Hollywood. If you’re not sure when to feel emotional or when to cry or even laugh you have a John Williams soundtrack as your guide. Then there’s the acting, done with a splendid soullessness and considering the calibre of the actors on show is very dire, even RBC’s old friend Peter Mullan gives his best “caught in the headlights” approach to acting, sorry Peter stick with Paddy and you won’t go far wrong! A film that is full of flag waving patriotism that glorifies the death of mainly working class cannon fodder. Bland un-engaging overlong drivel. The Gone with the Wind ending was the final straw.

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