Thursday, January 5, 2012
'War Horse' movie alert
This post is written in the heat not of battle but of recollection of battle -- that which Joey, the title horse of the book, play and movie, was subjected to: World War I, the "war to end all wars," which succeeded only in ending the lives of countless horses who were involuntarily involved in it -- "They had no choice," as London's heartbreaking monument to "Animals in War" reminds us.
The book, originally intended for children, is one thing. It's an OK read, giving a face to all the horses "enlisted" to serve in a war between humans. They were cavalry mounts (a crazier waste of life would be hard to find) and they pulled ambulances and armaments, among other things. They truly were "cannon fodder."
What horses have been made to do in wartime, all against their wills and natures, is unspeakably cruel. It should be unthinkable.
The Broadway show, which I heard and read about, was of necessity, stylized. It could not begin to "show" the horrors of war.
What the play could only suggest the movie "brought to life" -- and death. Disregarding for now scenes of the bucolic English countryside, where Joey grew up, the movie shows Joey in training for war service, then actually there -- miraculously and gallantly surviving charges, guns and bombs, ill treatment, unreasonable work burdens, noise, barbed wire . . . the list goes on.
As unlikely as it would seem, Joey is ultimately reunited with the devoted farm lad who raised him and together they return home to Devon.
Easy to resent is the tear-jerking manipulation of the movie. Harder to deal with is the moral wrongness of causing "war horses" to be. That's what is worthy of our tears.