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#1 Raster Scanning

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 03:29 AM

Went to see War Horse at the local cinema last night, I was actually not too impressed (why is every UK period drama set in Castle Combe?).
I guess it was good sentimental entertainment but not sure of the accuracy. Were the battlefields of the Western Front dominated by so many fires? Did gas shells behave like that?
It started life as a children's book and I felt suffered when adapted for an adult audience.
Any thoughts?

#2 Tom W.

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 04:03 AM

Here's a thread on whether on not the movie would be any good, based on who directed it.

http://1914-1918.inv...howtopic=172439

You're asking for opinions from people who've already seen it. I don't plan on seeing it, as I despise the work of Steven Spielberg and most of the reviews from regular folks who've seen it have convinced me that if I tried to see it, I'd die of a stroke.

Here's period film footage of gas shells exploding:

http://www.criticalp...met_World-War-I

The gas shells are shown at 3:39 in the clip.

#3 Raster Scanning

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 07:48 AM

Thanks for that, I had seen it but thought that now the film can actually be seen it would be good for a update on the actuality. Take a chance to look at the boys family home, the strangest English house I have ever seen, what on earth is the roof made of? I thought the horse running over a tank was interesting, but did actually wince for it when it was caught in the wire!



#4 Beau Geste

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 08:21 AM

Here's a thread on whether on not the movie would be any good, based on who directed it.

http://1914-1918.inv...howtopic=172439

You're asking for opinions from people who've already seen it. I don't plan on seeing it, as I despise the work of Steven Spielberg and most of the reviews from regular folks who've seen it have convinced me that if I tried to see it, I'd die of a stroke.



Hello Tom,

Like you I haven't seen "War Horse" but I intend to when it arrives at our local cinemas on the 13th.

What interests me though is your comment that you despise Spielberg's work. I've enjoyed many of his films including the Indiana Jones series which, for me anyway, was just sheer harmless fun and thoroughly entertaining . I accept that some factual criticism might be levelled at some of his history based efforts such as "Schindler's List" and "Saving Pte Ryan" but I thoroughly enjoyed them as well.

I don't expect to learn anything knew about the use of horses in the Great War but I do anticipate that I will be thoroughly entertained.

Harry

#5 Steven Broomfield

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 10:20 AM

As the originator of the other thread, I have nailed my colours pretty firmly to the mast :thumbsup: . I would also add that I shall go to see the movie, if only to reinforce my opinion: if I am cogently to argue against all the people who will think it's the best film ever made in the history of cinema (and there will be a few, trust me).

I would also add that I saw (yet another) trailer on the Beeb yesterday, shwoing cavalry galloping a wood, the edge of which was lined with Huns with '08 machine guns; there were so many they were shoulder to shoulder. Persoanlly, the word b&ll&cks came to mind.

As the papers, TV, radio and every meejah outlet known to man is telling us what a wonderful movie it is, I suspect Tom and I will be lone voices.

Incidentally, the argument that any GW movie is better than no GW movie, and that this will develop a greater interest in the period worry me. Do we really think a movie displaying an historical accuracy likened to Blackadder is a "good" thing?

I don't. All this will do is peddle inaccurate schmalz, like all Spielberg's movies.

In a ghastly sort of way I'm actually looking forward to going to see it. It will be Titanic with gas shells.

Shame there was no place for Kris Kristofferofferofferofferofferson in it. Then I could really have gone to town :lol:

#6 THE SHINY SEVENTH

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 10:25 AM

I would tend to agree with you Harry, wether you like Spielberg's work or not, you cant deny his works entertainment value(although Ive not seen War Horse yet). I would imagine that most small/medium production companies would'nt touch these subjects for fear of not making a profit. The fact that Spielberg offers such events to the mass market, I would hope with the intention of igniting an interest in younger generations, who by themselves will go on and study or at least look into, and fill in gaps or omit inacuracies as they go. Sean(Edit) Steve, you got your post in before me, and although I agree with what you have said, I do tend to give people the benefit of the doubt and hope that they would allow for a good deal of artistic license thrown in for greater cinematic effect.

#7 Deerhunter

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 11:57 AM

I used to sit and watch war films, accompanied by a running commentary from my father and older brother about "that's wrong, that's not how it is / was" but I still enjoyed the experience and the entertainment. Equally, I can watch "Coronation St" in the knowledge that the storyline is a farce and that Mancunians really do not say "happen" (for "perhaps"), yet still this is entertainment.

I'm firmly in the camp of "any WW1 film is better than no WW1 film", simply because it raises awareness of the Great War, and is a means of keeping the memory alive. War Horse is not a documentary, it's a film whose storyline in set during the Great War. My daughter and her friends are off to see it soon, they would not be going to watch "All Quiet on the Western Front" or "Passchendaele" (stands by for the inevitable rants) but any film which promotes interest in the social and historical backdrop of the Great War is something positive in my book.

#8 steve morse

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 12:16 PM

Brave - admitting to watching Coronation Street :w00t:

#9 ChrisC

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 12:22 PM

I suspect Tom and I will be lone voices.


Oh no you won't mate!! I could not agree with you more.
Chris C

#10 Simon Mills

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 01:24 PM

As a jobbing film technician I figure that I have to bear a degree of responsibility for the films on which I happen to work, although sadly War Horse was not one of them.

There is a terrific book written by George MacDonald Fraser called The Hollywood History of the World. Fraser, the author of the Flashman novels and an accomplished screenwriter in his own right, made an excellent case for the hazards faced by those who actually make historical films, which would be unknown to those working in other artistic fields. For instance, writers of historical novels can rely on a reader's imagination to visualise a scene in their own mind, whereas film makers have to recreate the entire scene, complete with wardrobe, make-up and hair, through to the tiniest details in the furnishings, props, or script, and still convince the audience. This is even more difficult to do in the age of DVD and Blu-ray discs, when films and individual scenes can be played back and scrutinised ad nauseam by viewers eager to unearth the tiniest flaw in any production.

There is one paragraph in Fraser's book which, I think, very neatly sums up Hollywood's struggle with the past:

"Well, Hollywood is not a school for teaching history; its business is making money out of entertainment, and history needs considerable editing and adaptation (which can, in some cases, justifiably be called distortion and falsification) before it is submitted to the paying public. This is something from which writers, directors and producers have seldom flinched. In this they are not necessarily more culpable than many serious historians who, if they seldom deliberately falsify, are often inclined to arrange, shape, select, emphasise and omit in order to prove a case, or confound a rival, or make propaganda, or simply present what they wish to believe is the truth. This, it seems to me, is a rather greater offence than that of a screenwriter who knows perfectly well that Gordon and the Mahdi never met, but who still makes them meet in the script. He is not writing history, but fashioning drama, and like Shakespeare before him he supplements fact with fiction as seems best to him. For me, provided he does not break faith with the spirit of history by wilful misrepresentation or hatchet job, he may take liberties with the letter – but he should take as few as possible."

It's nearly a quarter of a century since the book was published but I still don't think that I've seen or read a better description of the hazards faced by the producers of a historical movie.

I don't expect War Horse to be any different and I'm pretty sure that from the historical point of view it won't be perfect, but hopefully it will be entertaining…

S.

#11 Steven Broomfield

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 03:38 PM

any film which promotes interest in the social and historical backdrop of the Great War is something positive in my book.

Trouble is, that's where I disagree with you.

Blackadder was set in an historical context, but because the fourt series was set in an era of which everyone already has a misconception ("Donleys"), all it did was reinforce those misconceptions to a point where they become - even more - the accepted truth. I suspect very few people (if any) came to a serious study of the GW by watching Blackadder goes Forth (I confess to a limited knowledge of the Regency as seen in Blakdder the Third, and an even more disappointing lack of interest in knowing more).

So, I fear and suspect that those who do see War Horse in the context of the GW will merely reinforce the stereypical nonsense of brave but idiotic British cavalry galloping woods populated by well-trained, well-equipped and incredibly numerous Hun machine gun troops.

And I bet not one of the machine gunners is chained to his weapon. How's that for a lack of historical context!

#12 Simon Mills

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 03:57 PM

Hi Steve,

Unfortunately my problem is that I haven't read the book (I tend to prefer factual stuff and don't read very many novels) and I haven't seen the film, so I'm not yet in a position to comment. Mind you, from previous experience in the Colonel Blimp forum it seems to be a dangerous thing to comment on films anyway... Posted Image

Perhaps the most relevant bit of Fraser's quote is the reference to "... the spirit of history by wilful misrepresentation or hatchet job..." One thing is for sure and that is there are going to be a lot of people with something to say about the film, and it won't all be good...


Regards,


Simon.

#13 Neil Mackenzie

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 04:08 PM

Some good points Simon.

I can forgive errors of the 'mistied puttees' type. The inaccurate portrayal of Scottish officers in Titanic is something I cannot forgive.

Neil

#14 THE SHINY SEVENTH

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 04:39 PM

Steve, your pretty much preaching to the converted here, none of us would like more than to see a fair and accurate production of the GW, but sadly its unlikely to put bum's on seat's. Blackadder made fun of everybody/everything in it, and Ive no doubt that Elton/Curtis just played on the bumbling officer routine for extra laughs. The less intelligent newspaper reader(i.e.The Sun)may have a far from accurate grasp of whats going on in the world, but is it better that he/she is completely ignorant or, at least in Murdoch's eyes, have a limited knowledge of current events. Anyone going to watch this film does not need to know that machine gunners were chained to their guns to enjoy a couple of hours at the cinema, but hopefully as I did, become aware of such treatment to those poor men as my interest in the war flourished. I know a liitle knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and ignorance can on occasion be bliss, but if this film only plants a seed of interest in its younger viewers, then it cant be all bad surely? Regards Sean

#15 alex falbo

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 04:51 PM

Blackadder was set in an historical context, but because the fourt series was set in an era of which everyone already has a misconception ("Donleys"), all it did was reinforce those misconceptions to a point where they become - even more - the accepted truth. I suspect very few people (if any) came to a serious study of the GW by watching Blackadder goes Forth (I confess to a limited knowledge of the Regency as seen in Blakdder the Third, and an even more disappointing lack of interest in knowing more).

So, I fear and suspect that those who do see War Horse in the context of the GW will merely reinforce the stereotypical nonsense of brave but idiotic British cavalry galloping woods populated by well-trained, well-equipped and incredibly numerous Hun machine gun troops.


Steve, I realize I had commented in your thread that 'seeing any Great War setting on the screen is better than nothing.' However, I also mentioned that I do NOT approve or like when the film in question is taken for fact strictly. In an era when people my age have trouble with which World War came first, its easy to see why they can take a period film as pretty much authentic. I actually used one or two references to cinema and Blackadder regarding the way they affect our culture's memory of the conflict during a presentation about the Battle for Arras at my WFA. And of course how frustrating it is for a historian or student to get people to abandon the stereotypes due to media's influence.

My feeling and hope, is that if someone is mature enough to see a film as entertainment, not bona fide history, then if and when they seek to discover more they will learn that most if not all trench networks were not straight after early 1914. MG's, despite the Germans fielding many, were not that tightly grouped or distributed. That an attack was proceeded and led by artillery on enemy positions. That by the time we get to the Somme 1918 (final battle location in the film) that the atmosphere and tactics resemble 1915-17 situations.

It was funny listening to a group of people next to me mistake Devonshire for Scotland though.

I think your bigger problem Steve will be in the sentimentality category, where Spielberg and Williams clobber you with a trench mace repeatedly. Its worth it though IMHO.

#16 Steven Broomfield

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 05:31 PM

It was funny listening to a group of people next to me mistake Devonshire for Scotland though.

To be fair, they are quite close (compared to New Mexico and New Hampshire).

#17 auchonvillerssomme

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 06:46 PM

I've just seen the trailer for the TV version of Titanic, that doesn't look like it will be on my viewing list.

#18 alex falbo

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 07:21 PM

To be fair, they are quite close (compared to New Mexico and New Hampshire).


The question then remains; would you be as forgiving if they had said the movie is set in England when the film's story location is Aberdeen?
:whistle:

#19 Steven Broomfield

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 07:29 PM

Absolutely not. I mean, I'm not even sure they speak the same language.

#20 momsirish

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 08:05 PM

Hey fellas, it seems all these contrarian opinions of an entertainment movie probably stems from the advertisding by Speilberg and Ancestry .com inferring that this movie (show/not unlike a carnival show) is a factual GW history, about to reveal little known facts of the GW to the unwashed masses. I did not feel enlightened, or satisfied that I was thoroughly entertained as I left the movie house. I felt just the way I usually feel about most movies today.

I went to see War Horse last Friday and was surprised it was such a short movie, but it was entertaining. The training of the horses to run through barbed wire was something to ponder, I presume there had to be more than one horse to do all the special effects, and the barbed wire had to be some sort of rubber or flexible plastic etc. Was the stationing of one English trooper to stay in the trench with orders to shoot anyone sneaking back after going over the top a fabrication? Or is the record of one or two German soldiers found chained to their machine guns a verification that all German machine gunners were chained to their machine guns? I don't know But I'm pretty sure any member of the GWF is more knowledgeable than the average movie goer regarding the Great War. I don't think Speilberg or the movie industry and Ancestry .com really cares what GWF people think of the movies, they want to entertain the general movie goers who number in the millions.

. The cavalry charge through the high grass seemed to me as stupid as the charge through the woods into machine nests. In the preceeding reel the young horse Joey didn't jump the wall because it did not know what was on the other side. I do not know anything about horses but it seemed to me that their reputation for being smart would tell the horse not to run into grass so tall it could not see what was on the other side? The verbal exchange between the English soldier and the German soldier cutting the horse free of the barbed wire was interesting. The English soldier says " you speak English good" and the German soldier responds "yes I speak English well." That was not a case of one upmanship, but probably each one trying to respect each other at an unusual moment in war. That and the wire cutters flying out of the trenchs were reminisent of the humanity of the soldiers at Christmas in the real war.

All in all I did not think it was a bad move, but if asked to see it again I'd probably decline.



#21 Simon Mills

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 08:26 PM

Some good points Simon.

I can forgive errors of the 'mistied puttees' type. The inaccurate portrayal of Scottish officers in Titanic is something I cannot forgive.

Neil


Neil,

Once again I think that it harks back to "... the spirit of history by wilful misrepresentation or hatchet job..." I also remember the scene in Titanic when First Officer Murdoch shoots himself, and I certainly recall the outrage that it caused in his home town of Dalbeattie. This is a tricky one because there is indirect evidence to suggest that one of Titanic's officers may have shot himself during the final stages of the sinking, and that the two principal names in the frame were the ship's chief officer, Henry Wilde (from Liverpool) and William Murdoch. Rightly or wrongly, for dramatic purposes the 1997 film chose to depict Murdoch as the one who shot himself; the evidence may be circumstantial, but there is enough to suggest that it might have happened.

From a historical point of view the scene where Murdoch accepts a bribe from Billy Zane for a place in the lifeboat is less easy to reconcile, and I suspect that it had much to do with the film company later making a donation to a local charity set up in Murdoch's name. Admittedly it was not ideal, but at least some good came of it...

Simon.


#22 DrB

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 08:39 PM

momsirish....chained to the machine guns? Yes, but not for the obvious reason. The chains were used to move the guns and often the gunners were "disposed of" before they could loosen the chains.
Dr B :closedeyes:

#23 6th Shropshires

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 08:44 PM

After seeing the first trailer of this film I know it was going be poor on the true facts but it still looks interesting on the emotional side, so will go watch it if I get the chance to go, not been to the big screen for a few years.

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#24 Fedelmar

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 08:54 PM

allt his sort of thing should be put to the film makers BEFORE the film is released. Not much chop after the event as it can't be changed and its now in the annals of historic films 'forever'.

#25 Tom W.

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 10:01 PM

What interests me though is your comment that you despise Spielberg's work. I've enjoyed many of his films including the Indiana Jones series which, for me anyway, was just sheer harmless fun and thoroughly entertaining . I accept that some factual criticism might be levelled at some of his history based efforts such as "Schindler's List" and "Saving Pte Ryan" but I thoroughly enjoyed them as well.

I liked Raiders of the Lost Ark and Empire of the Sun, but both were made 25 or more years ago. Even those had moments of schmaltz or cutesy manipulation that rubbed me the wrong way.

Since most of American cable TV is now devoted to "reality" shows about pawn shops, moonshiners, truck drivers, swamp dwellers, hog hunters, tow-truck companies, and repossession companies (i.e. freaky, low-class weirdos hamming it up for the camera), I've been building up a DVD library to watch when there's nothing on the hundreds of cable channels I get.

I'd say the best old movie I've seen recently is Key Largo, with Bogart and Bacall. Bogart is a former army major who's come to Florida to tell the young widow of a soldier in his unit how the kid died and what a hero he was. What makes the movie excellent is that the actors let their faces and voices convey their sadness at the waste of it all. They speak of how proud they are of the dead man, while their faces betray their doubt over whether they really think the sacrifice was worth it.

If Spielberg were to remake Key Largo, he'd have the Bogart character give a lengthy speech about how bad war is and how the Americans were just as awful as the Germans, and he's draw some kind of blundering parallel between the U.S. and the criminal enterprise of the gangster Johnny Rocco, who's also staying at the hotel.

At one point in the movie, Bogart the former soldier is given the chance to shoot Johnny Rocco, knowing that Rocco's men will kill him immediately afterward. He refuses, and Bacall calls him a coward. Later, when she watches Bogart stand up to Rocco and get slapped in the face, she apologizes for calling him a coward. Her expressions as she watches Bogart fearlessly defy Rocco is an amazing bit of acting, all done wordlessly.

The point the director John Huston was making is that this war veteran was sick of killing and had been damaged by performing his duty, even though performing his duty was unquestionably the right thing to do. Later in the movie, he realizes he's the only one who can stop Rocco, so he reluctantly does his duty again. As Bacall says to him, "Your head says one thing, but your heart says another."

The movie is about duty and patriotism, but it's all very subtle. That's why I like it. Huston let us work it all out for ourselves. He had subtexts. Spielberg no longer believes his audience can grasp subtexts, so he smashes you on the head with a giant plank, over and over and over.

I fully realize people see movies for different reasons, so I'm not criticizing people who enjoyed War Horse or any other Spielberg movie. To me, film is an art form, and I go to movies for the same reason I go to art museums. I like a lot of weird, creepy, silly art, too. But it's art. I just think Spielberg is too manipulative and cynical for my tastes, so I give him a pass now.

Another movie that handles the cost of war really well is Bad Day at Black Rock, with Spencer Tracy as a maimed war veteran who initially thinks his sacrifice wasn't worth it. The movie also tackles the touchy subject of racism, without being preachy. I want movie directors to return to where they were years ago, when they assumed a level of intelligence and understanding in the audience that they don't think we have anymore.