I am not a playwright and I am not from Edwardian England. I did however take a crack at writing a play in Shakesperian English. The task was to write a piece in any form so long as it was an adaptation of an existing piece. I chose a Spike Mulligan poem. The result was a 5 Act Shakesperian play-pantomime that fit into just over 2000 words. This is one of the creative pieces I am most proud of having written and, as this was submitted for my degree module last year I feel it has been long enough to justify posting it without any plagiarism repercussions. I hope you enjoy this and, should any of you be aspiring stage actors, I am open to seeing a re-enactment of this. Nudge nudge.
The layout of this is a little all over the place. Spaces aren’t where they are meant to be and, while in part this is down to my lack of knowledge of the correct formatting, it is largely the fault of the WordPress site itself. Many lines are out of sync with each other but the content is all in the correct places. I have, for the purpose of making it stand out, made the character names bolder. I hope this helps.
So here it is, The Most Lamentable Tragedy of The Lotofus.
Chorus: In this, the story of the Lotofus
And his fear of the monster in the dark,
The tragedy of the Hippopotamus
Is told through how this fear did miss the mark.
With jaws and body, teeth so large to see,
No animal would venture forth to know
That the giant they shunned eternally
Could be a friend, but also be a foe.
The fatal fear projected on the creature
Allowed for the destruction of his friends,
And though his power was his biggest feature,
‘Twas fear of this unknown brought tragic ends.
The power he did have, and could have used,
Yet he did not, and thus he was abused.
ACT ONE SCENE ONE
Forest. Enter LOTOFUS and PUSSY CAT along with mice and rats.
LOTOFUS: Hark, friend! How do you do?
PUSSY CAT: I am well, friend.
LOTOFUS: And here, I see you brought along some lunch!
PUSSY CAT: A snack or two, should the occasion rise.
LOTOFUS: A wise decision! Pray, what hour is it?
PUSSY CAT: Eight, Lotofus. He will not rise till nine.
LOTOFUS: An hour then. Good. Yet how I fear the hour.
It brings such dreadful things that make me weak
And tremble where I stand.
PUSSY CAT: We shall be gone by then.
LOTOFUS: And pray we are. Terrific creatures dwell
In these parts. Like the Hippopotamus.
I do not fear you Pussy Cat, oh no,
For you eat mice and rats and leave me be.
You are my friend. But he could eat me whole.
In this I fear.
PUSSY CAT: Don’t fret. Here is no harm
If we do not disturb the river. Peace.
LOTOFUS: Alas, you are correct. I’ll shake no more.
PUSSY CAT: Hear, hear. Now I am hungry. Shall we dine?
LOTOFUS: We shall. But pray that we be gone by nine. [Exit.
ACT TWO SCENE ONE
River. Enter HIPPOPOTAMUS on the river bank.
HIPPOPOTAMUS: To use the power in my jaw to kill,
To kill for food, to satisfy my hunger?
Whether ‘tis nobler for a one as I
To use my strength to keep myself alive
Against the hunger that my size requires;
To hurt the ones I wanted to befriend
In here, this solitary place of woe
Where I am big, they small, and me alone;
To snap my jaws and with my teeth destroy them
For a mere morsel? To destroy: perchance to lose:
Ay, there’s the rub. If I did use my power
To destroy the creatures of the forest
I would lose my chance to gain a friend at last,
For if I were to eat a one of them,
The others would all run in fear of me
And I would be mere Hippopotamus
Alone, lost on this river ever-more.
[Enter LOTOFUS and PUSSY CAT]
Yet soft: the noble Pussy Cat here comes,
And who with him? I shall enquire the name
Of the stranger at his side. Good day, good Cat!
LOTOFUS: Ay me! He sees us! But why does he wake
When ‘tis not yet nine? What shall we do?
PUSSY CAT: Stay here.
I’ll venture forth and ask what he desires.
Good day, old chap.
HIPPOPOTAMUS: Good day. May I enquire,
Who is that creature that you bring this way?
PUSSY CAT: A friend.
HIPPOPOTAMUS: A friend!
PUSSY CAT: A friend of mine
And one that frightens easy in this clime.
HIPPOPOTAMUS: May I meet him?
PUSSY CAT: I doubt he will accept
Your invitation. Yet I will ask and if
He does deny you, please, good fellow, yield.
HIPPOPOTAMUS: [Aside.] A friend of noble Pussy Cat that I
Have yet to meet? Haply he’ll be mine too.
But he returns!
PUSSY CAT: He will not venture near.
He is too scared of your great size and jaws
To come closer. Yet don’t be sad, good chap,
For I will speak with him and see if I
Cannot arrange a meet another time.
For now be still.
HIPPOPOTAMUS: And on your word I will.
Good day. [Exit LOTOFUS and PUSSY CAT]
So friendless and alone I stay. [Exit.
ACT TWO SCENE TWO
Another part of the forest. Enter PUSSY CAT and LOTOFUS.
LOTOFUS: O, dear Pussy Cat! See how close he came!
I saw it. Like a prophecy, I saw
Those teeth open up as he ran at me,
And my head, entering those savage jaws.
O, why does such a creature here dwell?
PUSSY CAT: Peace,
Good fellow, peace. Let me explain it all.
That creature you call savage bears no harm.
He chooses not to eat the folk that live
In and amongst the trees and waters here.
A friend is all that he desires, and so
He starves himself in pursuit of a one
Who will not fear him. Lotofus, please come
And meet him. Do not be afraid, I plead,
For he is but a woeful giant. Heed.
LOTOFUS: I cannot. He has the power to kill
Me in one blow. And what becomes of me?
I have done no wrong. I don’t deserve to die.
But he, I know, could kill me where I stand.
I shall not go.
PUSSY CAT: Good Lotofus, please hear.
The Hippopotamus should not be feared.
LOTOFUS: It can’t be so. He is too big for me.
That is my last. I shall not speak again.
PUSSY CAT: So it shall be. Clownfish, come to my side.
CLOWNFISH: I’ll come to your front as I am forced to swim.
What is it you want?
PUSSY CAT: A message I have
To send up-river, yet I cannot leave my friend.
You are the swiftest in these waters.
A quick lap I could muster up for you.
And the message?
PUSSY CAT: Tell Hippopotamus
That he shall not meet with the Lotofus.
His fear of his great size does overpower
His will to make acquaintance with his person.
CLOWNFISH: So it is true. Size really does matter.
I shall relay this message, but beware:
The calm of hungry, lonely men is rare.
PUSSY CAT: Lotofus, will you not explain to him
Yourself? [Pause] I take your silence as a no.
Clownfish, tell him of this and then return.
CLOWNFISH: And while he turns yellow, I, the big man spurn. [Exit.
ACT THREE SCENE ONE
River. Enter CLOWNFISH moving up-river.
CLOWNFISH: Could, would, should: the great debate. Which is right?
The Hippopotamus could eat him if he might
But would he if he could, but so he can,
So would he, will he, when it hits the fan?
And should he, as he could and would no doubt
If eating him, no good could bring about?
He could. I think he would. But should he kill?
He’s hurt again. My God, I think he will.
Here comes my man; the giant they all fear;
The one the yellow-bellied won’t go near.
HIPPOPOTAMUS: Good day, good clown.
CLOWNFISH: As good as any round.
I bring you word, and such a word I bring
From Pussy Cat that surely has to sting.
HIPPOPOTAMUS: And what word is that, ho?
CLOWNFISH: The word is ‘no’.
HIPPOPOTAMUS: “The word is ‘no’”? Whatever do you mean?
CLOWNFISH: That in your presence the Lotofus won’t be seen.
HIPPOPOTAMUS: He will not come? Does Pussy Cat say why?
CLOWNFISH: He says a ‘y’ but not a why you’ll like.
HIPPOPOTAMUS: How so?
CLOWNFISH: The ‘y’ is ‘yellow’. Cowardice.
And by this ‘y’ your friendship he’ll dismiss.
HIPPOPOTAMUS: Dismiss me, without even meeting me?
The fool! The coward! Heartless! How he mocks
My way of living in a foreign land
Without a gram of discontent at it.
He cannot understand my pain, the daily
Suffering that keeps me weak though I look
The part as I am large. I cannot bear
Another day of it. My fast is over. Done.
Let the hunt begin. The Lotofus is first.
Mock me, spurn me, now taste the strength of me.
It’s time to let my jaws do what they will. [Exit HIPPOPOTAMUS]
CLOWNFISH: I thought they would. Now he shall foot the bill. [Exit.
ACT THREE SCENE TWO
Forest. Enter LOTOFUS and PUSSY CAT.
PUSSY CAT: I hope the news did not upset him much.
His is a gentle soul. On this I trust.
What does he say?
CLOWNFISH: A lot for which he’ll pay.
PUSSY CAT: My apprehension grows. What were his words?
CLOWNFISH: A few he spoke before he went berserk.
PUSSY CAT: Berserk? Clownfish, tell me, is he insane?
CLOWNFISH: He is in something but it’s more like pain.
PUSSY CAT: Where is he now? I must apologise.
CLOWNFISH: He looks for the Lotofus. Tonight he dines.
PUSSY CAT: Good God. And so he comes for him?
CLOWNFISH: He comes.
For him; revenge; perdition; yes, he comes. [Exit CLOWNFISH]
PUSSY CAT: You hear what Clownfish says? He comes for you.
I doubt that now my words will have effect
Sufficient to dispel the rage he feels,
And yet I have to try. For his sake and
For yours I have to try. Stay here, my friend.
This bush will well conceal you from harm.
I will return. [Exit PUSSY CAT]
LOTOFUS: He left me on my own!
He means to talk him down but that won’t work.
A brute his size knows nought but savagery.
I shan’t stay here. Instead, from him I’ll flee. [Exit.
ACT FOUR SCENE ONE
Another part of the forest. Enter PUSSY CAT front of stage.
PUSSY CAT: I have to find the Hippopotamus
Before the pent up anger of his past,
Friendships unrequited, and his hunger
Break the peace in which he lived so long.
I fear I am too late, but I must try
To save both prey and hunter from demise.
[Enter HIPPOPOTAMUS behind. Crosses stage]
If only I knew where he was, I could
Stop him from bringing pain into the woods. [Exit HIPPOPOTAMUS]
I shall look elsewhere. He must not be near. [Exit PUSSY CAT other way]
[Enter LOTOFUS below stage]
LOTOFUS: O God, save me from this untaméd beast!
I am too good to end up that thing’s feast.
[Enter HIPPOPOTAMUS onstage. Approaches LOTOFUS from behind]
O, Pussy Cat, why would you leave me now
With that almighty hunter on the prowl?
[HIPPOPOTAMUS tries to grab LOTOFUS. LOTOFUS steps aside and HIPPOPOTAMUS misses. LOTOFUS does not notice him]
I dare not stay too long. He’ll find me soon,
And then I’ll end up dead, or worse, his food. [Exit LOTOFUS]
HIPPOPOTAMUS: He thinks that he can hide from me. More fool!
What impudence to say that he is good,
Better than I, when he’s the one who threw
Distempered greetings at my feet. The swine.
No matter, Lotofus. You’ll soon be mine. [Exit HIPPOPOTAMUS]
LOTOFUS: Perhaps I was a little overhasty
In my judgement of him. I should have stayed
A while. Haply I would have charmed the brute
And then he would not have it out for me.
I should have tried. But it’s too late. I’m done.
Can I, for my wrongs, repent? Let him come.
Here is the beast! I spoke too soon. I am
Not ready for him.
HIPPOPOTAMUS: I found you at last.
Too many times have I been put down by
The ones whose eyes did fuel their fear. Too long
Did grave starvation grip my sides in anguish
As I sought a friend in food. Now I feast
Upon the coward that called ‘beauty’ Beast! [Chases LOTOFUS offstage and a scream is heard.
ACT FIVE SCENE ONE
River. Enter PUSSY CAT and HIPPOPOTAMUS in chains on river bank along with mice and rats.
PUSSY CAT: Old chap, I heard of your foul crime. You ate
My friend, the Lotofus, and now the wood
Calls for a reprimand. Your heinous deed
Has brought such chaos to our midst that all
Around are petrified. I cannot hope to quell
The anger in your heart, nor gloom in mine.
The only method I have thus devised
To keep the peace among the people is
Exile. Down river on the muddy plain
You’ll spend your final days in solitary.
Neither food nor friend you’ll find around.
This is your punishment. Let it be said:
The Hippopotamus is banishéd. [Exit HIPPOPOTAMUS with mice and rats in escort]
And so the fear of one brought on his woe,
While the anger, uncontrolled, of his foe
Did strike him down in blows almost as low.
Take heed, the story of the Lotofus,
And, too, that of the Hippopotamus. [Exeunt.
Firstly, I am aware of how experimental this piece is. I apologise if anyone is offended by anything I say – I welcome comments to help me to avoid this in future. The content I am referring to will become obvious fairly quickly. This is intended as a short story adaptation of the Icarus myth. As I say, it is highly experimental and I always welcome feedback.
Knossos Institute for the Criminally Insane – Patient Diary
Patient name: Rausci Vikare
Patient crime: Arson
Patient illness: Bipolar Disorder Type I
– Depressive and manic episodes
– Rapid cycling
– Icarus Complex (yet undiagnosed)
Patient currently in depressive episode. Anxious about future. No fear of his harming anyone. Will talk to him and re-evaluate.
Today I spoke to Mr Vikare. His apprehensions regarding his future are abundantly clear, yet he poses no threat to any persons involved in his case as yet. When asked, he spoke of his growing worry that the world as we knew it was coming to an end. I am yet to discover whether this is his view of his own internal world, or of the whole planet. He told of his envisioning the Apocalypse and when probed for details he grew quiet. The only intelligible words I heard from him was the following sentence: ‘It will all go down in flames, just you see’. I believe he is nearing the end of his rapid cycle, but will see him again tomorrow to conduct tests and re-evaluate the situation.
Mr Vikare was more co-operative today. My theory that his cycle was ending is correct and I found he was able to answer questions more freely. I again asked him about his vision of the Apocalypse and his reply was optimistic. He still became nervous and irritable at the mention of the subject, yet his overall view seems more positive.
I was able to conduct some tests with Rausci and again he did not argue. This is a good sign, however I fear that his rapid change from his depressive state may signify an equally rapid shift into a manic episode. I will revisit him soon and have the attendants keep a watch on him. As the last results proved inconclusive, I decided to re-engage Rausci with the Ink Blot tests. The results were much as the same: a building on fire, the sun, crashing waves. This was expected and yet my research has yet to be completed. I will give my theory at this stage and hope my findings may aid my future research. I believe Rausci Vikare has, on top of his Bipolar I, a rare disorder known as the Icarus Complex. Mr Vikare’s notion of fire – evident from his Ink Blot results and his apprehensions about the Apocalypse of flames – as well as his general fear of a doomed future lead me to believe this. I am yet to complete my research during his manic episodes however if my theory is correct, I predict I will find him seeking the attention of myself and the attendants, and I imagine he will fancy himself untouchable. I will keep an eye on Mr Vikare for this change.
Laudslade Vikare, the patient’s father, visited today. His visit is troubling. Requested a private conversation with Rausci. Rausci’s mood neutral but since the visit he is unresponsive to our questions. His eyes and constant grin are worrying. Tomorrow I hope to speak with him again.
Tragic news was reported to me this morning. Rausci Vikare is dead.
The Cretian Herald
Young man seen ‘soaring through the sky’ before drowning
It was reported this morning that a young man who drowned in the Icarian Sea, south-west of the island of Samos, was seen ‘soaring through the sky’ in what is described as an incredible act of ‘doomed narcissism’ before plummeting into the water and subsequently succumbing to the sea.
Reports were made of a man, later identified as Rausci Vikare, seemingly suspended in the sky on a pair of self-fashioned wings. Rausci Vikare was admitted as a patient at the Knossos Institute for the Criminally Insane after an arson attack in the centre of Crete last month. It was also noted by passerby Helen Phaeton that another figure was seen mere minutes before Rausci was spotted. It is suspected that this second figure was Rausci’s father, Laudslade Vikare.
Laudslade Vikare is known for his inventions regarding experimental flight equipment, and recently appeared on Greece Now to unveil his latest creation, Wax Wings, that he described as ‘the future of one man air travel’. He went on to say that ‘the detachable wings are made of feather and wax and are soldered onto a metal bracket which is passed over the wearer’s arm’. Mr Vikare even went on to joke ‘though you’d better watch not to fly too close to the sun, mind’.
Police reports are not releasing full details, however one officer was able to tell us what they believe to be the cause of Rausci Vikare’s death: ‘We are still conducting investigations, but we are currently assuming, taking into account the witness reports, that young Mr Vikare had escaped from his cell at the Knossos Institute in the early hours of yesterday morning, and proceeded to attempt to flee from the scene. CCTV footage shows a man believed to be his father leaving the building with him, and carrying what we suspect to be Mr Vikare’s own Wax Wings. It is thought that young Mr Vikare, as witnessed by Ms Phaeton, flew within close proximity to the sun, causing the wax components of the flight device to fail, and consequently lost his life. So far we are treating his death as accidental’.
Falling asleep in my lectures is seeming more and more of a likely possibility. Even the interesting ones, like Shakespeare and Darwin’s Origin of Species. I just can’t seem to keep my eyes open. And this lethargy has persisted even now. So, because I can’t think of a better post right now, and because this made me laugh at myself when I thought of the idea, I decided to do a little adaptation. Based on the struggles of staying awake in lectures, here are my adapted lyrics to the tune of Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day:
Wake Me Up When The Lecture Ends:
Summer has come and passed,
the good intent can never last.
Wake me up when the lecture ends.
Blurring faces of the class,
Seven seconds gone so fast.
Wake me up when the lecture ends.
Here comes the pain again,
yawning in the dark.
Changing the page again,
Destroying who we are.
As my memory rests,
I know I’ll forget what they taught.
Wake me up when the lecture ends.
Summer has come and passed,
this good intent can never last.
Wake me up when the lecture ends.
Sit out this hell again,
like we did when spring began.
Wake me up when the lecture ends.
As my memory rests
I know I’ll forget what they taught.
Wake me up when the lecture ends.
Summer has come to pass,
the good intent could never last.
Wake me up when the lecture ends.
Blurring face of the class,
twenty seconds gone so fast.
Wake me up when the lecture ends.
Wake me up when the lecture ends.
Wake me up when the lecture ends.
I’m amused by the simplest of things.
Also, I wish to redirect your attention back HERE to Project Spotlight #1. My housemate is doing his charity skydive in two months and could still do with some support. He is currently only on 25% of his donations and could always do with some encouraging words. Any messages of luck and well-wishes can be left here on the comments for me to pass on, and I don’t doubt he and the Wild Futures charity would be very grateful for donations!
Please note: this post will be hella full of plot spoilers toward the latter half of it. Clue is in the title. Also, I let loose on the profanity. I’m not sorry.
When reading a book, and then watching the film adaptation, or watching the film and then going back to read the book, it can become easy to spot differences, and these can oftentimes divide opinion. You can watch the film for what it is: a film. By itself, it may be successful as a stand-alone piece. The humour, the suspense, the music even, can all add or take away from the mood of a film. And when it is a film that has been adapted from a book, the mood created in the film can be different to the original intentions of the author.
Some film adaptations of novels can be very good. I believe that to do this, the film must do the following:
1. Stay true to the characters. If a character has been written a certain way made to be loved or to be hated, and then this is changed for the film, it can not only be confusing, but also really frustrating. There is nothing worse in a book to film translation than destroying the integrity of a crucial character. They may stand for something, be an asshole, love someone or something with their entire being … and these things all help to shape their character. They make them who they are. It creates the foundation for the way they will live their lives, the things that they will do, and the way they will handle certain situations. Altering the protagonists to a point where they become unrecognisable is both insulting to the story and the author, but also to the characters themselves. If they lived their life in one way in the novel, the film should show that. Sure, they may be altered slightly for the purpose of the screen, but only slightly. The essential characteristics must be there.
2. Not add anything unnecessary. Staying with the idea of character, don’t add extra characters that don’t enhance the plot. In fact, don’t even add them to enhance the plot. If they did not exist in the original story, they are not essential to the proceedings. And if they do become essential, then that means something wrong with the original story, in which case, perhaps it shouldn’t be considered for film. Similarly, don’t add events that will not enhance the story or advance the plot. This is a basic rule when writing a novel, so why should it be dismissed when adapting for the screen? Insignificant scenes which were not in the original story will not make a difference in the long run. As a stand-alone film, sure it may look important. But when adapting from an original text, you should only portray what the author has already portrayed. If they haven’t mentioned it, it probably didn’t need to be mentioned. Which brings us nicely on to the next point.
3. Not lie. In a similar way to adding unnecessary events, if it didn’t happen originally, it was probably not meant to happen. The author of a book is aware of every small detail. The little things matter. When adapting a novel to film, it is important to stick to the original like a fucking fish to water. As soon as you change something, or add something that wasn’t there, or take away something that was … you are in trouble. An author will write in certain events into a character’s history for a reason. If their parents were heavy drinkers in the past, this will ultimately affect the mindset of the protagonist. If this is then changed, or removed completely, this instantly takes away a significant part of their life. Maybe their parents drinking made them want to begin an anti-alcohol campaign. Maybe it made them start to drink themselves. Either way, their parents alcoholism became a significant part of who they are. Once things get added, or get taken away from a story simply for the purpose of film, it can mean the death of the character. Not a literal death (unless this happens to be deliberate on the film-maker’s part, in which case what the fuck, man?) but death of the character as the reader knew them. The original character is gone, because something has changed in their life which shaped an opinion, and in turn the character’s life.
I recently read Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse. Telling the story from the perspective of the horse, yet never giving the horse – or any of the horses for that matter – a voice was truly remarkable. Morpurgo got us to care about Joey and Topthorn, even without the use of speech. This in itself is quite the achievement. The story is told in two ways – the humans giving the speech, and the animals driving the plot. Joey never stops to tell us what he’s thinking for longer than a few sentences. 97% of the narrative is plot based. When there isn’t someone speaking, the narrative is more of a literal commentary on events: doing military drills, ploughing a field, running for their life. The dialog serves to give us the information that the horses just simply can’t: this is what is happening in the war, this is what we think of the horses, we will be going this way for this reason. The people speak, and the horses don’t. This is why the narrative and the actions dominate the book. Because it is being told from the perspective of the horse. In a sense, it is almost as though Morpurgo only introduced as many human interactions as he did so that the reader knew what was happening outside of the literal bubble of Joey the red-bay.
I am now watching the film. Below is a list of all the things Spielberg did wrong in his translation from paper to screen, as made during my first viewing. Note the special guest, the WAR FLAG. Let’s see how many guest appearances it makes, bearing in mind it was never even mentioned in the book:
1. We begin by watching Albert witness Joey’s birth, and watching him grow from baby to mostly grown. In the original text, the opening scene is the auction. Albert doesn’t meet Joey until his father buys him at said auction. It is upon seeing him in his father’s stable that he falls in love with him. According to the film, Albert had already met Joey – how this was supposed to have happened I’m not entirely sure.
2. Where is Zoey? The entire reason Joey is called Joey, is because it rhymed with Zoey (this is almost a direct quote from the book). Albert even tells him that. With his own mouth. Zoey was like the big sister/mum figure that Joey never had (because of his early separation from his own mother, though Spielberg decided having no mother figure wasn’t important to Joey’s character. Blergh, whatever). So where is she? Zoey becomes Joey’s rock. When he feels threatened, she comforts him. When he is struggling with work, she encourages him. He looks up to her, and yet there is no sign of her in the film. What made Spielberg decide she wasn’t an integral figure in Joey’s life?
3. Albert’s dad isn’t a prick. While this may seem like a good thing, it really isn’t. In the original book, Albert’s dad got drunk every Tuesday, bought Joey just so his rival couldn’t, and on a number of occasions threatened violence against Joey. In the film, yes he drinks, and true he did buy Joey to stop his rival. But the only threat of violence was a brief, and rather unexpected, moment of insanity in which he turned a shotgun on him, only for Albert to jump in the way and ensure he didn’t pull the trigger. The point of the character is that he is a complete and utter, Grade A, dick. Yet according to the film, he is a poor woe-is-me type farmer who only drinks because he’s so sad. We’re meant to feel sorry for him. But wait, didn’t we hate him in the novel? Yes, yes we did. Morpurgo created a character that we all despised. He was mean to Joey, a terrible father to Albert, and a general all-round bastard with no redeeming quality to his name. And what’s more, as if completely flipping the fucking tables round to make us not hate the guy wasn’t enough, Spielberg even went so far us to make him a war hero so that we even kinda like him. ENTER THE WAR FLAG. What? Why? What?
4. 40 minutes in and we are still on the fucking farm. In the book, Joey is being led away from the farm by the end of Chapter 3. In the film, we have hit the 40 minute marker and there is no sign of Albert’s dad sneaking into the stables at midnight to sell him on. Maybe if they spend enough time on the farm, the war will be over before they even consider sending Joey to it. Hooray for no war! Oh wait, the film is called War Horse. You see the problem we have here, Spielberg?
5. We have spent no time with Joey. Again, with my DVD paused at 40 minutes in, I am noticing another big problem. We’ve spent more time with Albert’s fucking goody-two-shoes dad than we have the horse that the book is about. This goes back to my very first point on this post – stay true to the characters. If it’s a story about a horse at war, show us a horse at war, not some drunken farmer crying about his bloody drowned turnips (this actually happens by the way. I know, humanity is doomed).
6. Who the hell is this guy? Now I like David Thewlis as much as the next Harry Potter fangirl, but seriously man, what are you even doing here? Thewlis plays the part of The Rival that leads Albert’s dad to purchase Joey. He also makes a bet he can’t turn him into a farmhorse in a week. That is his only actual involvement. Not according to Spielberg. Thewlis is now somehow Mr Knowledge. He is Mr Money. He makes housecalls to struggling farmers to take away their money, and suddenly is a fountain of wisdom and random facts that we actually don’t give a damn about because the film is called War Horse. Not Man in a Tweed Jacket. Word of advice? Go back to Hogwarts, Thewlis. I liked you better as a werewolf.
7. All the country folk sound like Samwise Gamgee had a lovechild with every Fable character ever.
8. A goose. Yes, there is a goose which thus far has made four appearances in the film. That’s an average of once every ten minutes. Michael, I am sorry. It would appear this (failed) humour-inducing, personality-deficient goose is the replacement for your beloved Zoey. It’s okay, Michael, some of us still remember her.
9. The music. I understand that when in the country, it’s nice to have a bit of fitting music. John Williams, I am sorry to have to say this, but you took it too far. We can see they’re in the countryside. We didn’t need the stereotypical country bumpkin tunes to remind us. Sadly, John Williams never managed to pull it back. I’ve never been so disappointed in you, man.
10. Captain Nicholls contemplates death. The Captain Nicholls that I know and love was a true hero. A strong, courageous man. He held no fear in his heart, only bravery. He was young, yes, but he showed no fear of death. While this is not a significant change as all soldiers must get scared, Captain Nicholls made a point to never let it show. This is a character trait that Morpurgo makes abundantly clear during his time in the novel. In the film however, he lets his weakness show. ENTER THE WAR FLAG. He uses the war flag for courage. As the Captain, the men should be able to look up to him. The readers should be able to look up to him. He is the epitome of bravery, and in appealing to the viewers’ emotions, Spielberg defiles his character.
11. Sie Germans sprechen sie English. Okay, so it’s an English film, directed at an English audience, with mostly English actors. But still, I doubt every German soldier in the war could speak perfect, albeit mildly accented, English. Yes, it was written in English in the book, but Morpurgo wasn’t exactly going to put a translation under every sentence, was he? If you have to use subtitles, do it. Most people won’t mind if it’s historically accurate. The Germans would have spoken German in 1914, so make them speak German when representing that. So what if we have to read a little? Some of us read Morpurgo’s War Horse and that didn’t harm us. Oh wait, this is War Horse? Oh, I hadn’t noticed. My bad, Spielberg … or I suppose, technically your bad.
12. Trooper Warren is missing, and so is a massive chunk of plot. Morpurgo’s novel is not a long one. My copy in fact has a mere 182 of them. Hardly a long novel by some standards. And yet Spielberg still managed to skip over the recovery of Joey after the first failed ambush – in which Captain Nicholls dies (Tom Hiddleston’s sad eyes being the only convincing moment of it) – and in turn, an entire section where Trooper Warren is introduced to Joey and becomes his new rider. Instead of establishing this connection and keeping the second ambush – where they run into barbed wire and are forced into German territory – the first ambush takes us straight to using Topthorn and Joey to pull the guns. This does not happen until Chapter 12. After they are used to pull the ambulances, and not at the same time as the film suggests, and after they spend a year or so as farmhorses for little Emilie and her grandfather. The thought of them pulling guns does not even come up until this point in the novel.
12. There are suddenly two brothers handling the horses whilst under German possession. This is not a major thing, just an unnecessary change from the original story. The handler of the horses is meant to be the older gent with the limp and the bad eye, He’s nowhere to be seen, and instead we have two young, barely German, Germans. We hear them talking about life at home. How his father signed him up even though he was only 14, and how his mother taught them how to fold a shirt. It bears no importance on the story whatsoever. As I said at the start, a good adaptation doesn’t make pointless alterations. ENTER THE WAR FLAG. The older brother, who stole it from Joey earlier in the film (thieving fuck) gives it to the younger when he is sent out to the frontline. Again, an unimportant, unrelated gesture. And then the older brother makes a mad dash on Topthorn to the marching Germans, swoops his brother onto Joey’s back, and gallops off into the distance. Then they get found. And murdered. Are you sure you read the same book I did, Spielberg? Because I’m confused. Why are you trying to make us care about these people? That’s easily 20 minutes of my life I’ll never get back. I don’t even know who they are. I’m not sure I even remember who I am anymore.
13. The French Emilie and her Granpapa are .. wait, they’re English too? Can none of the foreign people in this film speak their native language? Emilie spouts off random facts that do nothing for the film, and tried to teach Joey how to showjump. Oh, and she names the horses Francios and Claude. Stereotypical French names. Then the Germans come for the horses. ENTER THE WAR FLAG – Grandpapa stashes it in his pocket to “hide the evidence”. I would like to make it crystal clear that these did not happen in the novel. Michael, I deeply apologise.
14. Albert ends up on the frontline. He should never have been on the frontline. We do not see him until the final few chapters of the book. He was employed in the role of a vet. He looked after the injures horses brought to the recovery stables. He was never a part of the main battle. Personally I believe this goes against everything Morpurgo created in his character. Albert was never a fighter. He loved horses. He was kind and gentle. He only volunteered to go to war so he could stay with Joey but as he was denied entry he joins later in a veterinary role. Furthermore, the book is told from Joey’s perspective. We do not find out Albert has joined up until the end of the novel when he is brought, injured, to the area where Albert is working. How do we know what he was up to at this point? And why is it even important? The point is, Albert survived, Joey survived, and they met each other at the end. Spielberg has essentially destroyed and rewritten Albert’s character, and in doing so, only served to move further away from the original story. Let us not forget, this is not War Soldier, this is War Horse.
15. No fuss over Topthorn’s death. Quite a big deal was made about this in the novel. Joey’s best friend, mentor, fellow soldier dies and Joey stays with him all night whilst he is sick, and again when he passes. He flees in terror, but the image if Topthorn’s body next to the much loved Friederich was so emotionally stirring that his reaction is acceptable. He has to choose between life or death and so must leave him behind. I cried like a little bitch when I read this. Spielberg chooses not to dwell on it. This upsets me. Not only has a dearly loved character died, but it has once again detracted from Joey’s character. By not letting him stay with him as in the book, the bond is not shown. We are not able to see his loyalty. Spielberg did not stay true to the characters.
16. There was no way the barbed wire scene was meant to be that horrific. In the book, Joey catches his foot and ends up with a bad limp. I’ve just come across the equivalent scene in the film. My blood is actually curdling watching this barbarism. Headfirst through two sets of barbed wire, it wraps around his body, and then on impact with the third his entire body somersaults. He is then entangles in three layers of barbed wire and his whole body is covered. Morpurgo never wrote this scene to be so visually repulsive. Yes, war is terrifying, bloody, and grotesque. But it’s one thing to see a man shot down as has happened in countless films, and will continue to happen. It’s another to see an animal hurt. We may not admit it but it’s so much more horrifying to us as humans to see animals get hurt. Maybe this wasn’t Morpurgo’s intention, but it’s how I interpret it. Joey, the hero of the piece, was never meant to suffer such violence. There’s just something nauseatingly wrong about watching Spielberg’s adaptation of this scene.
17. The incredibly cheesy *facepalm* moment in which the title of the film is said in the film. I had to force myself not to punch myself in the neck as soon as he said it. Well, I suppose at least one guy read the script.
I must apologise as this next section has bundled up as one big paragraph and I can’t work out how to separate it again. My bad.
18. The wrong man fights for Joey to be saved. While I don’t deny I love that he fought Joey’s case, it was not his place. The man who wins Joey in no man’s land was supposed to send Joey to the veterinary station where Albert worked. Instead, Spielberg temporarily blinded Albert from a gas attack (you prick) and sent the winner of the no man’s land barter to plead his case. The entire point of this scene is that Albert finally finds his beloved Joey and begs for the head vet to save his life. Good Ol’ Bertie was finally reunited with his best friend, and worked his arse off to make sure he came out the other side alive. I love you man, but it shouldn’t have been you.19. No David. This makes me sad. Albert’s best friend at the veterinary station, David, was the one that gave the happy news to Albert that it was, in fact, Joey. I grew to love him in the short time he was in my life. Morpurgo was fantastic at that: making you react to a character (love, hate etc) even if they were only around for a chapter or two. Some I loathed, some I adored. David was one of the nicest men in the novel. He died a few days before the war ended. I was heartbroken at his death, and so was Albert. It was his bond with Joey that got him through. I loved this idea, as it showed once again what a magnificent creature he was. So much depth of character and not a single word spoken aloud to anyone, and yet Spielberg glosses over it like it’s nothing.
19. ENTER THE WAR FLAG … of lies! It was not your father’s. It was never a part of the army. Because it never. ever. even. existed.20. Corny-silhouetted-in-the-setting-sun-homecoming-with-lead-character-staring-wistfully-into-the-distance-scene. Does what it says on the proverbial tin. Oh, and in case we’d forgotten about it, ENTER THE WAR FLAG.
Things Spielberg got right:
1. Joey and Topthorn. As the main character you would hope Joey was the most endearing, charming, loveable character. And indeed, the horse chosen to act the part of Joey is quite magnificent. He is the only convincing character aside from Topthorn and Captain Nicholls. The relationship between Joey and Topthorn in the book is important. Topthorn becomes the best friend/older brother/role model for Joey, and this is represented well in my opinion. Perhaps because there is no spoken communication between them in the book, and also none in the film, this translation works better than characters with a speaking role. Joey always looks so proud. This is one of the only things the film got right. At least they stayed true to some of the characters.
2. Tom Hiddleston. Because you can never go wrong with Tom Hiddleston.
3. The irony:
Englishman to German: “You speak good English”. German to Englishman: “I speak English well”.
This is directed at the only German in the entire book who Morpurgo intentionally gives the gift of the English language to: the German half of the treaty to barter over Joey. After the horrendous scene as described above, this scene has had to be adapted too. It is no longer a simple choice of who gets the horse. It’s about saving Joey’s life from the thousand of poisonous barbs on him. This in itself is enough to make me slap myself in the face and sigh. But I have to admit, the irony of the above conversation was almost worth it. Almost. Well, not really, but it made me smile for a second. The German’s shouldn’t be able to speak English, and if done properly, they should all have been speaking German with subtitles. The only English speaking German should have been this man. The irony of “You speak good English” was hilarious. It’s a shame that I doubt it was intentional.
In summary then, and I know this has been a long journey, so I shall try and keep it brief. I hope you can stay with me a little longer.
Appearances of the WAR FLAG during my complaining (because unfortunately it shows up at times I didn’t mention too) : 6
Number of times I wept for Spielberg: 17
Number of times I plan to watch this film from now on: 0
Spielberg digressed hugely from several key plot moments, omitted existing characters with no flaws in place of his own, the point of which I’m still unsure of even having now finished watching it. Characters were almost always stereotypical, badly acted, badly portrayed and unrelatable. Michael Morpurgo managed to make me fall in love with every single nice character and want to violently murder every bad one, even if they only appeared on a single page. The entire film was not enough for me to really get behind anyone. I agree, the portrayal of Joey and Topthorn were the best in the film, but the constant diversions, alterations and downright ignorance made even this hard to enjoy.
So, on behalf of readers everywhere, Michael Morpurgo, I am sorry. War Horse was a true masterpiece and it was not done justice. Not even close. Spielberg, I think maybe it’s time for you to retire. A book of such absolute quality as this deserves better.
P.s. I started this post at 11.30pm. It is now 5:22am. The things I do for you, eh?
It has taken me a while to find something worthy of taking the second spot on Project Spotlight, but at last I think I’ve found it. The piece of art that I instantly knew had to be shared with you all. For the first installment of this Project, click here (no really, this page is worth looking at).
As much as I sincerely wish everybody has already heard of this, I recently discovered a friend from my university course who hadn’t. My jaw hit the ground. The genius – though that word is so overused it has almost lost its significance – that I am about to share with you has been massive in my family for years. When this was performed live on stage, we went to see it. And yes, I would go again, and again, and again. It will never get old.
The topic for today’s Project Spotlight, is Jeff Wayne’s musical interpretation of The War of the Worlds.
I will admit, I have never read the book, but having listened to this soundtrack time and again I almost feel as though I don’t have to. I will, of course. But I’ve heard it is a good interpretation nonetheless, lifting quotes directly from the page to keep the story correct.
I am unable to find you the full album to hit play and listen to the thing in one, however here is a sample. For anyone with iTunes, Spotify, or simply a love of CD’s like me, the album can be found for your enjoyment pretty much anywhere except YouTube.
I’ve decided to bring Jeff Wayne’s musical genius under the spotlight because it never fails to “bring about the warm fuzzies”. It “gives me all the feels” and all the other phrases which aren’t quite real English, yet somehow manage to describe the feeling of intense emotional movement by nothing more than a piece of music better than using the actual English language. It makes me go cold. The war cry of “Oooh Laaa” sends shivers through my entire body every time. Not even once per listen, I mean every time they cry – which is too many to count, and too much effort to do so when I’m trying to enjoy the track.
In terms of the translation from book to music, this can be compared to a book-to-film adaptation. It is always going to be scrutinized, some people will always prefer the original, some will hear the track and never know of the books existence, some may enjoy both. But there is one significant difference between music and film: film allows the use of both sight and sound – music does not. When reading a book you have just one sense: sight. You read the words on the page and that is all. When translated into film, the sight is still there, but sound is able to be added. While this may seem like a good thing, I personally believe this can hinder the impact that a book has. In this way Jeff Wayne was able to hit me harder than any film adaptation has, and probably ever will. I believe this is because, like a book, music allows only the use of one sense: sound. We can immerse ourselves in a book, just as in music. We can surrender ourselves totally to that one sense and it fills us. We are not forced to divide our attention between sight and sound. We can lose ourselves in the instrumentals, the lyrics, the narrator’s voice-overs. In the pure masterpiece.
I really do hope you all, if you are not already familiar with it, check out this album.
Or alternatively, go and see the live show in 2014. I went to the 2012 tour and, while thinking the album couldn’t be topped, I found I was severely mistaken. In the London 02, capacity 20,000, fully packed, I stared slack-jawed as the giant metal construction lowered from the rafters – the Martians had literally descended on London. As you may be aware, I find nothing makes me feel more alive than being at a live concert. This is my home from home, the place I feel complete. So being in an arena with 19,999 other people, body shaking with adrenaline, from excitement, as the orchestra filled the building, our bodies, with their music … it doesn’t get much better. I was tingling all over from sheer awe at the spectacle.
For tickets to the 2014 UK and Europe tour, click right > here <.
Below is a picture from the tour, and I’m not even going to make it smaller for the purpose of fitting in the page. Take it in, in all its glory.
So all the spotlights are on and directed at you, Jeff Wayne. Thankyou for creating such a magnificent piece of art. It holds a permanent place in my soul, and I am forever grateful. You truly are a genius.