Friday, April 20, 2012

War Horse

Sotahevonen / War Horse [Swedish title]. US © 2011 Dreamworks II Distribution Co. LLC. EX: Frank Marshall, Revel Guest. P: Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy. D: Steven Spielberg. SC: Richard Curtis, Lee Hall - based on the novel (1982) by Michael Morpurgo (in Finnish: Helsinki: Gummerus, 2012, translated by Päivi Pouttu-Delière) - and its stage adaptation (2007). DP: Janusz Kaminski. PD: Rick Carter. AD: Andrew Ackland-snow, Neil Lamont. Cost: Joanna Johnston. SFX team: large. Animatronics team: large. VFX: Framestore, team: large. Paint & roto team: large. M: John Williams. "Roses of Picardy". S: Richard Hymns. ED: Michael Kahn. Stunt team: large. Loc: England. C: Jeremy Irvine (Albert Narracott), Emily Watson (Rose Narracott), Peter Mullan (Ted Narracott), Niels Arestrup (Grandfather), David Thewlis (Lyons), Tom Hiddleston (Captain James Nicholls), Benedict Cumberbatch (Major Jamie Stewart), Celine Buckens (Emilie), Toby Kebbell (Colin, the South Shields soldier), Patrick Kennedy (Lieutenant Charlie Waverly), Leonard Carow (Private Michael Schröder), David Kross (Private Gunther Schröder), Matt Milne (Andrew Easton), Robert Emms (David Lyons), Eddie Marsan (Sergeant Fry), Nicolas Bro (Private Friedrich). 4010 m / 146 min. Released in Finland by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Finland with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Marko Hartama / Saliven Gustavsson. 2K DCP viewed at Kinopalatsi 3, Helsinki, 20 April 2012.

Technical specs (IMDb): Camera: Arricam LT, Zeiss Master Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses, Arricam ST, Zeiss Master Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses, Arriflex 235, Zeiss Master Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses, Arriflex 435, Zeiss Master Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses. - Laboratory: DeLuxe, Hollywood (CA), USA, DeLuxe, London, UK (dailies), EFILM Digital Laboratories, Hollywood (CA), USA (digital intermediate). - Film negative format: 35 mm (Kodak Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 500T 5219). - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (4K) (master format), Super 35 (source format). - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema. - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

Based on the children's novel by Michael Morpurgo on the colt Joey, groomed by the tenant farmer's son Albert. WWI breaks out, and the horse and the boy endure incredible ordeals.

Steven Spielberg's film adaptation War Horse belongs to the multi-character, Querschnitt, tradition in the cinema, like Lotna, White Bim Black Ear, Balthazar, In jenen Tagen, and Carnet de bal. The stories include: (1) Albert trains the horse at the farm in Devon, (2) Captain Nicholls takes the horse to the front and falls in Quievrechain in 1914, (3) the captured English horses Joey and Topthorn are harnessed by Germans to pull ambulance wagons. The German brothers Michael and Günther want to escape on them to neutral Italy but are caught and shot as deserters, (4) the French orphan girl Émilie, living with her grandfather, saves the horses hidden in the windmill, but the Germans manage to capture them, (5) Joey and Topthorn are made to pull heavy German artillery, but the German private Friedrich helps them survive, (6) 1918: Albert enlists in the war, fights at the second battle of the Somme, and is blinded by mustard gas. Topthorn dies from exhaustion, Joey bolts in front of a tank, lands into no-man's land, is entangled in barbed wire, and is saved by English-German collaboration. "The miracle horse" is rescued by a veterinary surgeon, and Albert's eyesight is restored.

There is a family film, storybook, and fairy-tale approach in War Horse. The obstacles and dangers are almost overwhelming, but when there's a will there's a way. The slaughter of WWI is devastating but conveyed without gore. (Sidenote: in the established tradition of horse operas, there is never manure.)

A grand saga to be compared with the works of David Lean, David O. Selznick, and King Vidor. The celebration of farm work brings to mind King Vidor (Our Daily Bread) (and in Finland, the Pohjantähti epics). The serious yet highly romantic approach to WWI brings to mind Frank Borzage. The aesthetic balance: much of it is splendid but I wish there were a bit more King Vidor and a bit less Norman Rockwell.

The cinematography by Janusz Kaminski is magnificent. There is a bit too much schmalz in John Williams's score. The performances are rather one-dimensional.

Shot on photochemical film and based on a 4K digital intermediate. I was very impressed by the 2K DCP presentation of War Horse.

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