Tuesday, April 10, 2012

War Horse—Savor it

I’m not really a fan of animal movies. When the wellbeing of an animal becomes greater than the wellbeing of a person, it rubs me the wrong way. So it was a pleasant surprise to find that War Horse is really about people. People who drink. People who mock. People who hate. People who love. People who care. People who overcome. And people who die. The film intersects stories of men and women who do whatever it is they do with grace and kindness, and when they tried with the worst, they continue with simple goodness.

In the same sense that this is much more than an animal movie, it’s also its own breed of war movie. Death here is appropriately horrific and appropriately reverenced. The nightmare of the trenches flashes into you in a way no history book catches, yet with a gentle enough hand for you to grab hold of the respect you need and nothing more.

No one character is particularly glorified or outstanding. They each exhibit greatness as they cross paths momentarily. I was distracted throughout the movie because each new character seemed to look just like someone I know: my dad’s boss, my piano teacher, my neighbor. As I watched soldiers descending into the depths of WWII, it occurred to me that these are people I know.

These average looking and ordinary people represent the men who come before me—at least one of my direct descendants—but more so they stand in for the souls that were just down the street from my relatives, who gave and shared bread with them before they died. Where many family lines ended, mine did not, and it survived with the traces of good neighbors who gave their lives in full in the end and who had likely given bits of their time and spirit to their friends before.

War Horse sweeps across these stories lightly against a color palette of hope in bleakness. See it, and savor it.

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