Sunday, January 01, 2012

Some corner of a foreign field

I didn't read the children's book, but I wanted to go see War Horse on Boxing Day. It reminded me a little of Black Beauty - the horse is sold form an English farm to the cavalry, and through the chaos of the battlefields drifts from the British to the German to the French to the Belgian sides, playing a different role in each. It's also a cute boy-and-his-horse tale (also not unlike many other animal stories).

Being a war movie as well as a children's book, you couldn't escape the fact that death and dying are everywhere - but I thought Spielberg did a tasteful job of showing the tragedy of war without getting an R rating: windmill arms block the execution of two teenage boys, a French girl's death is mentioned (but not described) only at the end, the riderless horse charging out of battle lets the viewer know the fate of the cavalry officer. In a way, it was more poignant and heartbreaking not to show how everyone who loved the horse met their ends. I'm not quite sure how the book pulled it off, though.

In the end, most stories about the Great War are anti-war. This one was no different: the Boer War regimental flag that both father and son took with them to their different battlefields signifies the silence of survival and the hope for an end to conflict.

And the scenes of the Devonshire countryside were also beautiful, even if a bit Gone With the Wind-like with the silhouettes against red skies.

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