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War Horse, A beautiful, poetic, traumatic love story

November 7, 2014

War Horse stands for an innovative, modern and revolutionary movie. Indeed, it gives us a new point of view about WWI, which is seen through the eyes of Joey, a horse.


The movie is adapted from Michael Morgupo’s original novel narrated by Joey himself in an interior monologue.

Steven Spielberg’ s blockbuster, not only enhances  the pain undergone by soldiers, but also puts the accent on the suffering of horses who were involved in a war which didn’t concern them. They were assigned heavy tasks such as the transport of artillery… nowadays, we assess the number of dead horses during WWI at  around 9/10 million.

Spielberg is really sensitive to these animals; as his family has lived with horses for decades, he knows how complicated, delicate and fragile they are. Thus he advocates a respectful work between horses and men based on patience, trust and love. For the movie they cast several horses from different ages, foals and  2-year-old ones that they had to train.

When the director committed to making the movie, that “flesh-and-blood” limitation was his primary concern. Real horses performed nearly every single stunt in the movie; except for the dangerous scenes, like the ones in which Joey ensnares himself in barbed wire or falls into a trench, which had to be fudged with the help of CGI.

Moreover, Spielberg had another preoccupation: “I didn’t know what contribution the horse was going to make beyond what they were trained to do”. The point was that each scene implied a specific performance, and like humans, horses are unique, they all have their own way of reacting, of behaving and their own emotions,… as a consequence the horses’ casting was the key.

“They need to be able to bring some emotion to every scene that they do,” says Lovgren, the film’s horse master. “And quite honestly, that is the most difficult thing to achieve, because it’s not something that is very typical of them … Before we start filming, I have to learn what each animal’s characteristics are, what they do, whether it’s good or bad. That’s when I can recognize, ‘Oh this [horse] is going to fit well’ for this sequence or not. Or on the day [of filming], when the director wants a different option or a different look, I can say, ‘Oh, okay, here’s what I can show you.’”said Lovgren. The casting was a key element in the making of the movie. Indeed, “Joey” was performed by a company of 14 equine actors, among the over 100 horses used in the film.

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But, War Horse is not only the story of a horse exposed to WWI, but also the story of the unbreakable bond between a young man, Albert, and his horse. The fact that the movie is a love story before being a historical movie, or a documentary on horses, makes it universal. You don’t need to be keen on horses, or even know something on them to share this magical love story.

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Then if you have not watched it yet, grab your handkerchiefs and do it!

Léa G.

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