When I know that a movie is going to affect me deeply, I have a special way of dealing with it. Unless I can watch it with Esther (which isn't often) I sneak off quite alone, without telling anyone where I'm going. I buy a ticket for the very first screening, and sit in my favourite seat (aisle, front row). I buy a coffee and nothing else. I take off my shoes and curl my legs up underneath me. And I watch it from the very beginning until the last credit has rolled from the screen. Then I hug it to me for as long as I can, until real life breaks the spell.
So it was this morning, when I went to the first showing of Steven Spielberg's War Horse. I don't usually write movie reviews...Esther does it so much better than me on her fabulous blog Half Sweet, Half Salty...and this won't be a review either. I've read some very disappointed critics on the subject of this film...and I'm sure that I will continue to do so. Personally, I never let a critic decide what I watch - I always like to make my own mind up because, in the end - to me - my opinion is the only one that counts after all!
So I can only tell you what it meant to me. And I knew from the moment I saw the trailer for this film that it was going to be one of 'those' movies. If you know me, or follow this blog, you'll know that history is one of my 'things'...and WW1 in particular. I'm currently researching and writing a novel set during that conflict so I know a lot about it...but it's a period that has affected me for as long as I can remember. I saw the stageplay, War Horse and loved it so much. When I heard that it was being made into a film, I was worried at first until I read that Spielberg would be directing. Because I knew that he would get it.And he does.
On the surface, it's a fairly simple tale of a boy & his horse. But it's so much more than that. It's about kindness and patience, courage and loyalty. And love. The triumph of love.
There's a scene, quite late on, where Joey (the horse) is quite alone in a torn and shattered landscape...except that there's a tank slowly and relentlessly lumbering towards him. Looking through the animal's eyes (as we are invited to do) I saw the almost laughable absurdity of humans. This huge hunk of metal, that was invented solely to kill & maim looked absolutely ridiculous. And yet so terrifying.
Anyone who has loved an animal cannot fail to be moved by this film, I don't think. What is it about horses? I'm fairly nervous around them in real life. But there's a primeval connection between them and us that makes them (along with dogs, perhaps) the most poignant of subjects. And this film is no exception...their strength and courage is perfectly contrasted with their utter vulnerability. The fate of Joey is solely in the hands of those who take ownership of him throughout the film. And he must just do the best he can.
Put all that together with the gorgeous lushness of the English countryside, the waste and tragedy of so many young men's lives, a sweeping and evocative score by the ever-brilliant John Williams and some fabulous performances (Jeremy Irvine & Emily Watson are stand-outs but all are wonderful) and you have, what is for me, a near perfect movie.
Some say that I look too deeply into things. It's a fairytale, after all...(adapted from a children's book by the amazing Michael Morpurgo) Perhaps that's true. All I can tell you is that I cried buckets and I still feel 'hungover' four hours after the credits rolled. And, like every wonderful movie that I've ever seen, a part of War Horse will stay with me forever.
Have a great weekend! xo