I admit it–I haven’t read the book, and I haven’t seen the stage production…and now that I’ve seen the trailer for the much-anticipated Steven Spielberg production of Michael Mopurgo’s bestselling book WAR HORSE, I don’t know that I’ll be able to sit through the movie. Did anybody else sob audibly during the running scene at the end of the Coen Brother’s rendition of TRUE GRIT? I was upended and undone for days afterward.
I started thinking about War Horse after seeing the special section in Vogue magazine last month–I found the photos startlingly beautiful, and as always, I’m intrigued by the horse and the model (or in this case, actor) pictured. I find myself wondering, “Does he/she even LIKE horses?” “Is that bit really necessary for a fashion shoot?” “Does anyone actually RIDE in an Hermes saddle?” “Who thinks it’s a good idea to ride a gray horse bareback in black designer pants?”
But the Vogue photos were truly stunning, and evocative enough to inspire me to try to find out a little more about the movie and whether the actor who plays the lead, Jeremy Irvine, actually knew anything about horses before he found himself “lucky” enough to play the role. And what about Spielberg? How did he manage to direct a film that has been called by some “Black Beauty in the First World War”?
Working with horses on this scale was a new experience for Spielberg, who commented on flicksandbits.com that: “The horses were an extraordinary experience for me, because several members of my family ride. I was really amazed at how expressive horses are and how much they can show what they’re feeling.”
“It’s challenging to tell a story where you have to look at a horse and wonder what the horse is feeling from moment to moment. But that’s why I wanted to direct this picture,” Spielberg says in a USA Today article. “You’re giving language to a horse based all on physical performance.” (Check out DANCING WITH HORSES: THE ART OF BODY LANGUAGE by Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling.)
And what about young Jeremy Irvine? Vogue reports that although he grew up around horses, he’d never actually been on one until he began intense training for the film. “We spent two months learning to ride together,” he says in the November issue, “racing across the fields with swords…it was the best summer ever.” (He should have read RIDING FREE by Andrea and Markus Eschbach first!)
So what do YOU think? Should I read the book, see the play, or go right for the movie? With all the buzz, I can’t ignore it completely…is it required reading/viewing in my line of work?
I’ve heard from colleagues and friends that the stage production is magnificent–and gut-wrenching. “I was fortunate to see the theater production of War Horse this spring at the Lincoln Center,” says TSB Promotions Director Julie Beulieu. “The production was spectacular. While you may begin watching with a feeling of awe at the puppetry, by the end of the play you are in tears as the puppets have magically become real horses in your mind. I am not in a rush to see the movie production of this play, as I was so struck by the torture these horses endured in the war that I am not sure I want to relive their pain.”
Publishing and equine industry consultant Susan Harding says she loved the play, too. “What made it so special was the reality created by the puppets. Having now seen the movie [Susan caught a screening--the film is officially released in movie theaters December 25th), I would say that the puppets were more 'real' than the horse in the movie. The movie gives too many human emotions and actions to Joey [the main horse character]. If you haven’t read the book, I definitely recommend it!”
If you have an opinion, let me know! I’m a crier, be warned…the end of Homeward Bound (yes, the one with Michael J. Fox as a dog) gets me every time.
Rebecca Didier, Senior Editor