Sunday, 8 January 2012

Was the film 'Bambi' to blame?

Big hoo-ha on this evening's news about the Royal Premiere in London of Spielberg's latest. The big man himself is there, complete with the titular four-legged star-'actor' in all its equine presence - and with Wills and the lovely Kate being the royal pair in attendance. (Btw: Good job the lovely Camilla isn't also there otherwise someone may mistake......No, I will absolutely NOT say it!)
    'War Horse' is another major film I'm going to let pass by me for the reason of its depicting horrific suffering to animals - even though I know full well that any film coming out of North America, western Europe or Australasia would never have been made where actual pain had been caused to any such being. (The roof would cave in on the film-makers if it was made known or discovered to have taken place!)
Nevertheless, though I'm fully aware of this, just witnessing animals being shown as going through hardships and pain, even when contrived, is something I cannot bear to watch. At least human beings have a choice, they are getting paid and, should they be unintentionally injured, they will be compensated.
   The film is based on the stage play of the same name which has been wowing critics for many months. I haven't had the opportunity to see it but in the 1980s I did see the Peter Shaffer play 'Equus' on the West End stage before the Richard Burton film came out. (It's been done again recently on Broadway with Daniel Radcliffe) On stage the horses were stylisedly played by actors carrying horse-shaped frames, in the same manner that horses are being depicted in the stage play of 'War Horse'. In the film of 'Equus' actual horses were used and though no animals came to any harm in the climactic and realistically shot horse-blinding scene, it had been intended to look real and that, for me, was a step too far - and I've not seen the film since or do I want to see it again.
     Generally, seeing what is meant to depict the suffering of animals on screen is something I cannot abide. (There are, incidentally, other things which make me miss films, mainly because they just bore me to tears - boxing, in fact any films which features a sport in a big way, plus films with over-smart or wise-before-their-years kids teaching adults how they should live their lives.)

I think it all started with Bambi. Must have been about 8 or 9 years old when I first saw it at the cinema with my mum. It wasn't until decades later - when I was in my 30s or even 40s - that I discovered that one particular scene which had devastated me on that first viewing, but which I had kept bottled up during all the intervening years, not mentioning it for fear of being laughed at, had also traumatised many of those of my generation, and of both sexes.  Yes, it was that scene when Bambi is told that his mother has been killed. For years after seeing the film I wept inside, and possibly outside too, thinking "How could they do that to her? - and leave poor Bambi to suffer?"  Then I tried to rationalise it by arguing to myself that it was a way in which the film-makers were teaching children about the realities of life and death. Cruel, though it made a sort of sense. But even so, I was deeply wounded by the experience - and have never seen the film since. I wonder if that scene is having the same effect on young children seeing it on DVD for the first time? - or are they all inured against such scenes these days? But DVD doesn't have the immediacy and impact that a huge cinema screen had in my young days.
   I cannot say that 'Bambi' is definitely the reason why I find witnessing the suffering of animals in particular, so hard to take. Most likely I'd be the same way if I hadn't ever seen the film. But the fact is, that particular film left me with a life-long mental scar which, in a peculiar kind of way, I'm actually content, even a little bit proud, to still bear.
    But sorry, Mr Spielberg. I won't be tipping any of my money into your pockets for 'War Horse' - and besides, why do you have to have made such mawkish films in recent years. (The rot started for me  with 'E.T.' - a film I wouldn't see for a second time even if I was paid to!). Let's have another 'Jaws', 'Close Encounters' or even the wonderful 'Duel' please! - but 'War Horse'? No way, Jose!


  1. Ever since we adopted a dog from the rescue society, I can not abide nor tolerate any cruelty to animals. Human cruelty should move me but it doesn't; it is harm to cats and dogs etc. that moves me.
    I can not look at rescue ads on the TV.

  2. Your words give me such comfort, Dr Spo. If YOU, of all people, feel that way, then it provides more validation to my own emotions on the subject than I can say. We are on precisely the same wavelength - and you are especially brave in voicing your second sentence. All I can say is "Me too!" Thank you.

  3. We are a nation of animal lovers, we pride ourselves on that, psychologically we exhibit more emotion and care about the suffering of our animal friends than we do human brothers and sisters. I find it sometimes strange, other times not, although I do wonder if animals were still used in greater quantities by armed forces if it would lead to less war and hostility and more cooperation and negotiation……
    Joey, the horse, the main character in this new War Horse movie was very well paid indeed for his role (More than some of the actors!) Its also a film that is raising millions for charity, of which the glittering premier was all about, which, is a good thing. All too often big movie producers and companies keep all the profits for themselves, getting richer and fatter and richer and fatter. At least this time, a small amount will help others, rather than swell the bank accounts of the already rich and wealthy.
    Although I’m not sure I can agree with you on not seeing the movie for the reasons you tell in this post, I respect your views and will leave that there. Although rather than boycotting a film that has no animal suffering in it, I’m surprised you don’t boycott say horse racing, for that rather than fictional pain, has real pain and death on a weekly basis.
    I say Daniel R doing Equus, in London, I was lucky enough to be on stage at the back and it was an amazing performance, yes including the nude bits, thankfully no real horses, just metal heads…. I enjoyed it fully.

  4. Thanks, Jase. In fact I do have major problems with horse-racing (as well as dog-racing) - actually with any sport that uses animals either directly as 'entertainment' or as a necessary adjunct.
    We all know about fox-hunting and the foxes, but the question is never asked about what happens to all those horses AND dogs whose usefulness to that 'sport' has expired, say through injury or having less stamina through their ageing. I'm pretty sure they are shot - after being bred for the sole purpose of man's 'enjoyment'. The thought sends a shudder through me.
    I didn't know about charities (presumably including animal charities) who will benefit from the proceeds of this film. It does actually make me feel a little better. But don't get me wrong. I wouldn't say that this film should not have been made. As long as no animals were harmed then that's fine by me. It's just the depiction of animal's suffering that presses buttons causing myself to suffer mental anguish. If one can take seeing it on screen, then I've no objection in the least. So I'm not boycotting 'War Horse' on principle, only avoiding it personally so that I'm not paying money just to feel uncomfortable.
    I know one should feel at least the same about human suffering - most people would say one should feel even more. Actually I cannot watch TV when it shows people suffering through famine, war, natural catastrophes etc. The remote is always close at hand during the news for a quick flick-over. Also cannot bear to watch old historical newsreel films of Nazi era treatment of Jews (or anyone at all, though it's nearly always Jews shown) even before they're sent to the death camps.
    To sum up my attitude to animals though, which covers the reason why I'm veggie (maybe you too for this reason) - I always ask the question "Is this NECESSARY for us to survive?" - i.e. slaughtering a sentient being for a few moments of man's pleasure - and even that isn't isn't guaranteed. As long as there is an alternative which we in the developed world have, my answer to the question is "Yes, there IS an alternative. We do NOT need to make other beings suffer in order to survive ourselves." I rest my case.

    Btw: I'd forgotten that Mr Radcliffe had done 'Equus' in the West End. When I saw it there all those years ago the boy was played by Peter McEnery and the analyst by Michael Jayston. It was a pretty good production - as I reckon the one which you saw also was. At least the critics liked it.

  5. I'm with you on your lack of desire to see Warhorse. However, now I'm curious about Bambi. I've never seen it and perhaps now at age 45 I should round up a copy and watch it. Will I find within it my lost childhood?

  6. I don't fancy seeing Warhorse either, but mainly because the trailer made it look a schmaltzy. I'm led to believe the stage version is very good with the use of puppetry in portraying the horse(s).

    I have never seen Bambi so have never experienced the trauma so many others seem to have had in relation to it.

  7. Cubby, I think at your (relatively) advanced age you have seen enough of life and death so as not to be surprised at a character losing a parent, especially a cartoon one. For me at the time cartoons were as real as life and this event profoundly affected me for many years to come - and maybe still does. For you watching it now I think it'll be like water off a duck's back - lucky you! I'd still be interested to know whether kids of an impressionable age watching it these days are still being traumatised by it, though.

  8. Andrew, yes Spielberg has become a synonym for schmaltz - and I've heard that War Horse is a multiple-tissue movie. I'm the last person who needs to be shown additional sentiment towards animals. What I already feel without being nudged is more than enough, thank you.
    The puppetry in the stage version of 'War Horse' sounds really intriguing and I actually would have liked the chance of seeing it - and certainly would have travelled up to London to do just that if I had the resources.
    Spielberg lost the plot with me some time ago, wallowing in sentiment, often drowning in it! (I'd mention 'E.T.' again). Yet very occasionally he does come out with a surprising film that bucks the trend, his last which I look favourably on being 'Munich'. But whenever any of his films comes out - which is always an 'event' - I get very circumspect.
    As for your seeing 'Bambi', I'd only repeat what I say to Cubby above. I dare say that if you saw it now you'd forget it once it was over.

  9. You might hate me a lot because of my job.

  10. Almost everything I feel, you mentioned in your post. What you didn't cover there, you covered in your response to one of the comments. Beautifully said.

  11. I could never HATE you, Tai - even if you worked in an abattoir. I'm sure everyone has 'sensitivity buttons' (even though some may prefer to deny it) but they are not always located in the same place. Thanks for making a comment anyway, my friend.

  12. Thanks so much, Paul, especially for the "beautifully said" part (tactfully overlooking one or two typing errors I missed before publishing). But why am I not surprised? Well, because for a long time now I've known that in several areas we are kindred spirits. But your confirmation of it is always welcome. I know that if I come back to the subject again, which I hope NOT to for a while (much too harrowing!) I won't be alone with my emotions.