Every once in a while, a book comes along that belongs not in your barn, not in your truck and not even in your office. Not on a shelf, either. No, this book belongs on your coffee table, or maybe in the waiting room of a vet clinic or tack shop.
If you don’t have a coffee table, you might want to go buy one so you can open this large-format book out flat and turn the pages, one by one.
Over the years, this blog has been the champion of the story of War Horse, from the very time it opened as a play in London in 2007. We support the “horse” in War Horse, and want to know everything we can about the horses in the film, the play and the real war horses of World War I.
And now we have a rich velvety guide to the making of the motion picture. You can get lost in the photos, they’re so large and so deeply inked. And you will, believe me.
When director Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks Pictures authorized a beautiful coffee table book about how the film was made, there was no question that it had to be worth a look.
What I wasn’t expecting: that I’d keep looking and looking and looking at this beautiful book.
The oversized (12 x 9″) book is printed in color, with massive full page photos taken during the production of the film. It is hardcover, with thick, high-quality paper and dust jacket.
War Horse: The Making of the Motion Picture has several forewords–including one by Steven Spielberg, one by producer Kathleen Kennedy, one by original author Michael Morpurgo and one by screenwriter Richard Curtis. Spielberg’s is especially compelling, as it offers insight into why he chose to translate the story to the screen.
After these formalities, you meet 21 cast members with a portrait of each in costume. They’re arranged in the order in which they appeared in the film, for easy reference.
Then the book reveals its heart: the story of War Horse and how the cast and crew collaborated to get it onto film. As always the natural scenery of Devon, England is dazzling in color, just as the dreary, unnatural scenery of The Front, No Man’s Land, and the trenches are monochromatic and foreboding.
The story of War Horse is told in three sections:
Part 1: Joey’s Journey—A visual retelling, along with script excerpts and filmmakers’ comments, of the journey taken by Joey, the war horse and his beloved Albert, from the striking verdant countryside of Dartmoor, Devon, to training in the British cavalry, to trench warfare in France.
Part 2: The Making of War Horse—An insider’s glimpse of the movie-making process highlighted with fascinating insights from the international cast and the crew about the casting, locations, costumes, horse training, and much more.
Part 3: The History of War Horses—An illuminating section on the role of horses in battle, illustrated with iconic images from history, vivid drawings, paintings and photographs.
There are also beautiful sketches of set designs from the art directors and even storyboards of how scenes like the barbed wire entrapment were sequenced.
Is it a Hollywood book? A history book? A horse book? Or all of these? I think this book is what you want it to be. It’s an enhancement of your experience viewing the film (or, one day, the DVD) and a tribute to the artists, the actors, the technical geniuses, the land and especially the horses who moved you then, and will again, with the turn of every page.
War Horse: The Making of the Motion Picture was published December 27, 2011 by Newmarket Press. Format: Hardcover; trimsize: 12 x 9; pages: 144; full color throughout. Cost per book $35 plus postage and handling; Ages: written for adults, with some technical references, but I think a horse-crazy teen would do fine with this book. And love it! Click here to order your copy!
Photos in this post © Fran Jurga and Equisearch.com, still images from the film and shown on pages are property of Newmarket Press and DreamWorks Pictures. No use without permission.