Saturday, 18 February 2012

A Pinoy At The Movies: War Horse

If there's cramming before an exam, there's also cramming before the Oscars.

It's Hollywood's biggest night in a week and I haven't even been able to watch the best movies of the year yet. Why? One, most art films are not shown in Korea, especially if they're not commercially viable; they're only shown if they win an Oscar or maybe if the cinemas don't have anything else to offer. 

Two, I have totally forgotten that there's CGV and Landcinema in the neighborhood!

So, off I braved the -3'C degree temperature (and the KRW8,000 movie ticket!) just to catch War Horse, which was on its last days at CGV Yongsan.  I decided to watch it since the only horses I have seen in Korea are the ones that pulled those lighted carriages along Cheonggye Stream (and they're all hiding in winter). And even if my eyes were still blurry from work, I had to force them to watch a movie whose main character wasn't human: a thoroughbred!

Luckily, I was able to sneak into the theater just as the opening credits were running down the screen, or I would have regretted it! Why? The best sceneries in the movie were in the early minutes! Those aerial shots of the hills of Devon just made me want to visit this county in England. That's where the horse was born, and where the movie actually starts and eventually ends.

I'm not really going to spill out the storyline as it would take me 146 minutes and a world war to do it.  Mr. Spielberg, as usual, impressed. As I sat there, still thawing my limbs early on in the movie, I could already see the Spielberg touch. The guy always brings it on in his storytelling.

As the title goes, this movie is about a horse which went to war. World War I, that is. The horse, named Joey, was born, sold, raised to plow the field, sold again, and then went to war.

If you happen to have seen The Red Violin (another favorite!), this musical instrument went through the ages touching the lives of the people into whose hands the violin fell. In War Horse, Joey went through World War I and touched the lives into whose hands his care fell.

Although it's a war, Spielberg never showed gore, but still ended up incredibly realistic. Even the moment of execution of two German boys (who also took care of Joey) was creatively covered by a wind mill. And if you see a bomb blast at the trenches, you would see bodies gracefully flying and not cringe at the sight. Gosh, he even made no man's land, that patch of muddy land between German and English soldiers that's full of barbed wires and dead bodies, look like a stretch of mud flats from the Boryeong Mud Festival.

And do watch out for that clever transition when Albert's mother, played by Emily Watson, was knitting. Her knitted 'something' would turn into a plowed field! Amazing! It reminded me of another clever transition in Bram Stoker's Dracula (by Francis Ford Coppola) where the eye of the wolf turned into a huge setting sun. Emily Watson's acting, by the way, was unremarkable. Maybe because she resented playing a rural English housewife married to a disabled alcoholic. Lindsay Lohan could easily play her, and make both of them a believable alcoholic couple.

Albert and Joey made a good match and early on in the movie, Albert emphasized that his horse wasn't a dog. I was also amazed on how they were able to get these horses do what they had to do. Especially plowing!  

One face I immediately recognized was David Kross, the elder of the two German brothers who deserted their posts. He was the lad opposite Kate Winslet in The Reader. They both went naked in that movie. But only Kate won the Oscar. Not fair.

The scenes in France between a grandfather and his granddaughter were like a respite in the middle of the war. They still were able to gather strawberries and make jams! Even if the bombings were within their hearing distance! Their English with a French accent was cute, though (Their accent reminded me of my French teacher Solane).

But the funniest scene was between an English and a German soldier who, in the middle of no man's land, worked together to untangle Joey from the barbed wires. You just have to watch the scene: the white flag, wire cutters, and flipping a German coin. Colin, the Brit, and Peter from Dusseldorf, for a moment, made World War I look like friendly match. I had to laugh when Colin, not knowing Peter's name at first, called him Fritz (which, I guess, is a common nickname in Germany), and Peter loudly resented for calling him that. 

And do watch out for the musical score. Unmistakably John Williams!

I was happy I braved that freezing temperature and gave up W8,000 to CGV for watching War Horse. The story may be sad and endearing, but Spielberg's storytelling was incredibly delightful.

I'd rather you brave the winter winds, too. You won't be disappointed. Just make sure you make it before the opening credits.



  1. Thank you for good information.
    Recently I haven't thought of other entertainments for my pastimes than K-pop. Spielberg's movie might be a different story. He never disappointed me since "Radius". I watched all Indiana Jones series.

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