I have always had a soft spot for horse stories. Black Beauty, the Black Stallion, My Friend Flicka, Seabiscuit. So I knew that I would see War Horse- despite some serious misgivings that there would be a lot of violence interspersed with the tender story of a boy and his remarkable horse. I saw the movie yesterday. Or rather, I “saw” about half of the movie and closed my eyes through the other half.
Some years ago I resolved that I would not subject myself to violence in “entertainment”. The film “Gladiator” left me feeling physically ill and I wondered what could be the benefit of watching such brutality? There is more than enough violence in real life. Do we need to create more to entertain ourselves? Most scripts minimize the real consequences of the fights, the car crashes, the explosions, etc. on the “good guys”- if they show them at all. Maybe it comes from my experience in medicine, knowing how people struggle to recover from even relatively minor accidents. I find it very difficult to enter into the fantasy of trauma with instantaneous recuperation so that the character is ready to fight again in the next scene.
“War Horse” is set during World War I, “the war to end all wars” which, of course, it didn’t. I found myself feeling more and more hopeless as the film wore on. If we could not realize the folly of solving conflicts by the brutality of hand-to-hand combat as shown in the film, how will we ever come to that realization today when war is fought by drones and bombs activated half a world away from the targets? This was what was going through my mind as I sat with my eyes closed and wondered how much longer the movie would last.
There must be another way to deal with the reality of evil. There is another kind of sacrifice than offering up our young people on fields of battle. It is the sacrifice of those who say that they will wear down the enemy by their capacity to absorb suffering. Developing that kind of capacity, which is really the capacity of love, is worth our best efforts. Would that the creative genius of our writers and moviemakers was put to such a project!