BLACK BEAUTY is not a story *about* a horse, it is the
autobiography as told *by* the horse. This latest of a long string of
BLACK BEAUTY adaptations is simply wonderful from start to finish. In
so many ways, the writer (Caroline Thompson and Anna Sewell) and the
director (Caroline Thompson) made just the right choices in how to make
this classic book come to life on the screen.
BLACK BEAUTY is the story of a (boy) horse from its birth (a great
scene) to its puberty (along with the classic girl rejection scene) and
then through his adult life. Just as in human life, there are masters
(read bosses) that are wise and kind and other that are stupid and
mean. Also, as we humans have found, there are friends who mean a lot
to us. This is a movie that does not pull the punches. Bad things
look like they might happen on several occasions and sometimes they
really do. This, of course, makes love and triumph even more
Too often the producers of kids movie take no risks. The
homogenized and safe movie they end up with, offends no one, but bores
half of the audience. Producers Peter MacGregor-Scott and Robert
Shapiro were willing to take risks and they made the movie that truly
comes alive with all of the spices, joys, anguish, fears, and triumphs
of real life.
Besides the perfect scripting and directing, there are many other
marvelous aspects to the show. Alex Thomson's cinematography showed
the setting of the English countryside in the Fall, and it never looked
more lovely with its golden radiance. The city was made to look dark
and foreboding in contrast. Clearly, the countryside was heaven and
the city, hell, BUT here we find some bad people in heaven and some
good people in hell.
The many actors in the show (Peter Cook, David Thewlis, John
McEnery, Eleanor Bron, Sean Bean, etc.) were all top-notch. The star
nevertheless was Black Beauty. I believe that even people who don't
care much for horses would love this show - it is that good.
The key ingredient for success in the show, was having a strong
narration throughout by Black Beauty himself. We know Black Beauty's
every thought. This was not done in some trite fashion as in all those
movies where the babies talk to us. Instead, we have a Scottish actor
(Alan Cumming) delivering a beautiful and melodious rendition of the
horse's inner thoughts.
The show makes you feel as if you had been reincarnated and were a
horse in 19th century England. This it should be point out was not an
easy time to be a horse because people used them for everything from
pulling a taxicab to pulling heavy coaches to being the semi (lorry to
you British readers) of their time to just generally being worked until
you dropped if you got a cruel owner.
Copyright © 1994 Steve Rhodes