in the centre...
Lacey on the wing, just like before..."
It's Christmas 1915, and deep in the heart
of the battlefields of Europe, allies and
enemies cast aside their differences for a fleeting
moment, emerge from the squalor
of the trenches and partake in a game of football.
That Christmas footy game has been recounted and
filmed many times. Paul
McCartney even sang about it ("Pipes of Peace",
Christmas 1983). This particular
adaptation coimes from Illuminated Films, via the
award-winning books by Michael
Foreman. And it's super. The story commences back
in Britain, with friends
Will, Freddie, Billy and Lacey playing football
together on the local playing fields.
The four embrace the call for men at arms and enlist
for war. They train as part
of the King's Royal Rifles and are soon despatched
to France and the trenches of
the front line. In the lull of Christmas Day, the
opposing factions drop their weapons
and partake of carol singing and a game of football,
and for one fleeting moment
humanity is restored. But all too quickly, they
must reconvene for battle, and our
four friends are sent over the top to their doom....
Michael Foreman's book was written in memory of
his four uncles who died in
the Great War. The publication won the coveted 1993
Smarties Book Prize.
It was a companion book to his earlier title "War
Boy", which depicted his own
experiences of war as a child. "War Boy" won
the 1990 Kate Greenaway Medal.
"War Game" is visually glorious. The opening
scenes are bathed in the golden
hues of Summer, with the clouds of war looming on
the horizon. Kitchener pops
out of a recruitment poster to rally the recruits,
before they depart on great
iron steamships as the flag-waving crowds see them
off. Contrast this with the
charcoal outlines of our heroes entering their
final bitter No-Man's Land; the figures
of the fallen, glimpsed through the fog of war. As for
the game itself, well, there are
no spitting Gerries here, or moustache-twirling blighters.
The two "teams" are
completely, unistakably human, sharing a precious
moment together, separated
by circumstance alone...
Some might say "War Game" is too sanitized,
too clean with its depictions of
battle. But The Hound's here to remind folks that this
is essentially a tale for
children, to teach them what happened during the
Great War. And though it
may be bloodless, visually and emotionally it's
as hard as nails. Which is no
surprise once you looked at the credits. Producer Iain
Harvey has that cold-war
classic When the
Wind Blows atop his CV, and he and director Dave Unwin
draw us into a red melee of explosions and gun fire,
we peer through smoke and
mud at the faces of our heroes as they are steered
inexorably towards their fate.
Yes, what we have here is a classic, classy film,
and a very moving tribute to
the fallen of war. See it and weep.
Game" has stirred the emotions of many festival juries around
world and its extensive list of prizes
include platitudes from Annecy, Banff
and the British Animation Awards...
Boy" is currently being developed as the follow-up...
2003 Cinemagic Festival, Belfast - First Prize
2002 British Animation Awards - Children's
2003 Cairo Intl Film Festival for Children
- Best Animation Film,
Intl Jury Prize and UNICEF Prize
2003 Il Cordoba Anim Celebration, Argentina
- Best Animation ANIMA 03
2002 Cinanamia Festival, Portugal - Alves
2002 Intl Festival of Film & Video, Iran
- Golden Butterfly: Best short
2002 Bourg en Bresse Festival, France - Grand
Prix du Festival
2002 Annecy Intl - Best Television Special
2002 Banff, Canada - Intl Student Jury Award