Will and I saw War Horse with my mom at Fox Theater this weekend. People have asked me “How was it?” It was brilliant and it was awful. If someone put a gun to my head and said, “I will shoot you unless you watch War Horse again,” I would have to ponder on the choice for a bit. Now, keep in mind that I have seen Les Miserables at least 5 times at the Fox. I have no plan on seeing the movie as everything I have read about it says that it really took the whole dirty, gritty, realism thing seriously which to me is basically saying, “Oh, we thought it was too light and fluffy because of the singing so we took something heart-wrenchingly depressing and made it as realistically horrible as we possibly could.” One of my close friends said that she basically wanted to curl up into a fetal ball and sob during the movie in the theater.
Which pretty well explains my reaction to War Horse. When Will and I saw previews for the movie we said, “Nope. Fuck that.” Because it looked like a boy who loves his horse, loses his horse in WWI, so he then enlists, because lord knows with the introduction of the machine gun that was a light casualty war, and tries to get his horse back.
There is no way, with that premise, I am going to enjoy this movie. You can kill hundreds of people and I am a bit sad, but you kill a horse or a dog in a movie? Yeah, I am crying and also pissed at the writer and director personally for writing something like that. As a child there were countless “coming of age” stories where a boy (because all of the stories were about boys) has a beloved dog and somehow loses this dog in a trillion awful ways. I often hated the author personally for those books, not to mention some teacher hatred. I had a 7th grade teacher who I think made us read every single short story or book where horrible animal death was a theme. As an adult, I think now that either she had issues or she really hated little kids. The Red Pony? Can’t you just kill me or lobotomize me instead?
But my mom has season tickets and she seemed really excited about going and after telling her that I was NOT going to see West Side Story with her at the Muny this year, I figured I would endure War Horse. I mean, for a stage production, how bad could it be?
The answer to that is SUPER MEGA AWFUL.
Part of the reason it was so awful was because of how well done this horribly depressing play was staged. The horses onstage weren’t real, but they had puppeteers that made them look real. They even had the horses breathing hard when they were straining and breathing normally at rest. You believed that these were horses. Although, Will pointed out that it might have been better to have the puppeteers in black because he and I both would occasionally think, “Oh! He must have found his horse, he is right next to it,” but it would be the puppeteer for the horse’s face. That does take you a bit out of the moment.
They also had a big white slash above the stage where they would show various facts about the war, bombs going off, barbed wire, and things like that.
Basically, I cried through the entire thing. I hate to cry AT ALL. Crying in public is THE WORST and I am not overly fond of crying in front of any member of my family as I was given the description of “oversensitive” as a child, so I try to not live up to it, which is difficult, because I am oversensitive. However, they were mean as fuck to this horse. They whipped him, they made him plow when he was not a plow horse, they sent him to WWI, they made him drag cannons, they even, towards the end, have this horse get caught up and trapped in barbed wire.
For those of you familiar with graphic novel The Crow Will at this point said to me, “Don’t look. Don’t look.”
Will, God bless the man, tried valiantly to keep me from crying. He whispered jokes to me, he covered my eyes rather aggressively at certain points, and overall tried to get my poor oversensitive heart through this fucking play. I do not envy the man his job in being my husband. I am not a low maintenance woman.
I am also not very nice. I said to him at one point, “This is your fault.”
“What?! How is this my fault?”
“Before I met you I never knew how awful WWI was. I knew about the Lost Generation and that they were all pretty well scarred by it, but I didn’t know the sheer number of people who died because they didn’t understand about machine guns.”
This is true. Will told me how they kept thinking if they did a big “push” through the enemy lines they would be victorious simply because that had worked in the past. This was after I had some issues understanding Black Adder’s final season – why did they just assume they would die? Oh, because they did. With machine guns a big push just means they mow everyone down, which they did.
Anyway, we survived the show, we left for home, and I have felt emotionally wrung out for days since then. From now on I follow my instincts and I back out of things that I know are going to be incredibly horrific.
Oh! To make things even more horrible and funny, my mom had rented the movie. 15 minutes into the play she whispered to me, “This is where I turned it off at home.”
WHAT?! You turned it off at home? Then why, for the love of all that is holy, are we even here??!!! Gah!!
There was also this one guy who acted as the chorus, sort of. He would sing a capella periodically throughout the play. I thought he was a nice reprieve (I’m a sucker for an Irish brogue) but Will hated his guts by the end of the movie. He did not find Random Guy Singing Songs Not Even Related to the Plot to be interesting at all and wished him dead with quite an intense hatred. I think the play was rough on Will, too.
So, to conclude: War Horse had brilliant stage artistry that made the horrible and painful and awful actions/plot/point of the play very realistic and very powerful. Enjoy!