Send As SMS

November 3, 2005

The Black Rabbit Serves

Got involved with "Watership Down" once more after all these years. I had the book read to me by Andrew Sachs recently and that brought me to watch the movie on DVD again. I remember that it impressed me very deeply when it came out and I was quite young, sort of the first movie that really got to me, especially the vision/myth sequences with the black rabbit, done by the shamefully uncredited John Hubley. I still think the film is a remarkable achievement, especially the landscape sequences and the music. Adams' stubborn English civil-servant-style love of family and the "fellows" and a walk in the woods and the simple things in life seems to shine through. Kind of narrow, but nice in its narrowness. The movie also conveys some of the fun Adams has with nature terms, revelling in words like "gravelspit" and "cowslip" and "ragwort". Plus, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the original version was dubbed by several major actors I know from Shakespeare dramatizations on tape or video. Richard Briers as Fiver and Michael Hordern booming quite convincingly as the voice of God sound especially good to these ears. Ralph Richardson manages to be staggering in his two-minute-cameo as the Chief Rabbit, an obvious self-parody. Every time I see or hear him it becomes clearer to me that Richardson was magnificent. I'm generally ambivalent about him and Gielgud, because they're so IMPORTANT and bloody KNIGHTED and they bear themselves like they've got WORLD CULTURAL HERITAGE tattooed under their armpits, but then again it's undeniable that they can eat all them modern, slick, smug, empty-headed one-note wonders like Kenneth Branagh for breakfast without a strain. There's nobody who can speak like SIR Ralph and SIR John anymore, it's a part of culture that's just gone. Pity. Anyway. Something else that struck me about "Watership Down" is this: A plot that takes about 600 pages in the book is compressed into a series of climaxes in the movie; it works, but feels somewhat breathless and cramped today. However, when I saw it as a kid it seemed to have all the epic breadth you could wish for. Apparently you just fill a lot in intuitively at that age. Consequently, if something strikes me as hasty and flattened out nowadays, that might just reflect the fact that I've gotten slower in tuning into something, more picky and arrogant. That makes me kind of uncomfortable with judging works of art. I'll get over it, though, I guess.


Post a Comment

<< Home