War Horse

For me, a visit to the cinema has always been something of a treat. Only rarely do I see a film when it has just been released – with the matters of finding the time to go, finding a film I really want to see, finding the perfect companion with which to watch it and justifying the cost of the tickets all coming into play. In fact, the last film I saw in a cinema setting was Jane Eyre which I posted about the week of my seeing it in September 2011. Gosh, how time flies! This time the setting and plot were altogether very different – with War Horse being the film that hankered for my attention and which caused me to give in and make that seemingly bi-annual cinema visit. I can honestly say that I was not disappointed.

It is unusual for me to see something in which I am not aware of who the lead role is played by – but War Horse was one such  film. Jeremy Irivine plays Albert “Albie” (to his friends) Narracott who forms a close bond with a horse he names Joey – bought by his father to plough the land on the family farm despite the colt not being  a shire horse. As many of you will know, Albie and Joey are separated when war breaks out – only to be finally re-united at the very end of the story. Obviously the large chunk I’ve neglected to comment on contains all the nitty gritty scenes of the First World War in action, with some superb acting by two of my favourite actors – Benedict Cumberbatch (yes, he of that coat two summers ago!) and Tom Hiddleston.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Mr Spielberg – hats off to him – had kept remarkably close to the original novel by the renowned children’s author Michael Morpurgo, which I feel really kept the morals which are a strong theme throughout the tale grounded. Hope, trust, loyalty, solidarity and courage. I actually had the privilege of hearing Mr Morpurgo speak, two years ago, about his experiences of being an author and about the inspiration behind his works. The two hours I spent in his presence were two of the most insightful, inspiring and valuable of my life and many of the things he said have stayed with me since.

I feel it is testament to his great skill as a writer that only a very small number of changes were made when transferring his novel from a manuscript onto the big screen. The result is a modern masterpiece – the kind of truly successful collaboration which only occurs when two people come together with the same goals and the vision of creating something powerful, and in this case visually stunning and quite spectacular. In contrast, I’m saddened to say that I was disappointed with another film which had been critically acclaimed for it being one of the best of the year.

The adaptation of John Le Carré’s 20th Century Classic “Tinker Tailor Solider Spy” although faultless from a cinematographic point of view just wasn’t made with its audience in mind. Even when putting aside its one great fault – the difficult to follow plot line which left myself and around 85% confused about twenty minutes in (and this is a two-hour film we’re talking about) – I felt that its creators had, with their target clientèle in mind, made it too high brow for their own good. It is a great shame, especially as the likes of Colin Firth, Gary Oldman and Benedict Cumberbatch all contribute to making the cast list, after Harry Potter, Britain’s best in a while and definitely best male cast.

Compared to War Horse, Tinker Tailor offered little or no opportunity or hook to draw the audience into making an affinity with one or any of the characters. Also, the distinctly Cold War feel and the lack of emotions in the film (somewhat similar to my views on “Never Let Me Go” – if you’ve seen it you’ll probably get my gist about the characters feeling very different from the world in which they lived) made it an even less inviting tale to embrace. I think for me the main problem was that, as I did when I went to see True Grit last year, I walked into Tinker Tailor thinking it was going to be the best film I had ever seen, and it wasn’t.

I blame the media hype which whips up a frenzy of copy gushing with praise for every film released – making it increasingly difficult to separate the real ‘not to be missed’ films from the three star titles. One of my perhaps easier to keep resolutions was to get out to the cinema more this year and appreciate decent film-making. I think so far I’m not doing too badly and hope to add “The Woman in Black” onto my list of “viewed” films next weekend. If anyone has seen it please let me know your thoughts so I know what I’m in for!

6 thoughts on “Cinematography

  1. I’m looking forward to seeing the film. I was fortunate enough to see the play and it ranks as one of the most awe-creating feats of theatrical magic I’ve ever seen. I greatly admire the deceptive simplicity of Michael Morpurgo’s writing. Aren’t we lucky to have grown up with such wonderful authors writing for children and adolescents?

  2. Tinker Tailor was a sub-par remake of a _fantastic_ mini-series. The story was just too involved for a two-hour movie, and they did a poor job of adapting it by not cutting some elements, or having a longer overall movie to allow some more room for the characters to shine. Watch the original instead!

  3. I loooooooove cinematography as well! I have an obsession with good movies, especially in the theater. Is it sad that I watch the movie for the cinematography, lighting, rule of thirds stuff, etc. as much as I do the movie? Haha. Love it.

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