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Black Beauty [DVD] 
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Directed by Caroline Thompson (the writer of 'Edward Scissorhands', 'The Secret Garden' and 'The Addams Family'), this is another reworking of the Anna Sewell classic about a horse which has been badly treated. Set during the late 19th Century, where poverty was high in London's East End, the tale follows the ups and downs of the life of the horse Black Beauty.
A wondrous new version of Anna Sewell's classic about a remarkable horse and the various owners whose lives he transforms.See all Product description
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The narration cleverly and, in my opinion, very effectively, bridges this gap. Do horses know that they are about to be sold? Perhaps not, but they almost certainly are able to sense when something is amiss, and that's enough to build a story on.
And what a great story it is, as we follow this beautiful animal's passage through life, with its ups and downs, loves and hates, terrors and joys. And even sly humour in places. Throughout, the photography is stunning, with charming shots of the English countryside, and amazing sequences of the horses playing and frolicking together. No sex, of course, which is only proper.
Beautiful visuals, good pacing, and a the heartfelt story of a beautiful black horse who is passed through circumstance and choice from home to home, and experiences both the best and worst of human nature.
Personally I love this film and the message it conveys, however, although Black Beauty is often seen as a story for children the author originally intended for it to be read by adults as a plea for people be more compassionate and thoughtful in how they treated their horses, and it did lead to a reform of animal welfare laws at the time including as mentioned in other reviews the abolishment of the bearing rein.
As such this is a touching and thought provoking film, but due to its nature in addressing the issues of the cruelty and neglect some horses suffer at the hands of uncaring owners, it is also very sad and harrowing in some parts and younger or more sensitive children may be upset by it. Even I found it sad in places, but I agree with the reviewer Anne, the messages of compassion and consideration of others, human or animal, are important ones, and this film conveys them very well. Also the film really isn't as "depressing" as a lot of people are making out..... there is actually a good deal of gentle humour mixed in to balance out the sad.
I'd personally recommend this film highly for any fan of the book, adult or not, but for younger children perhaps rent the film and watch it alone first, that way you can see and judge for yourself before showing the film to them (and easily return it if you feel its not suitable).
If you're interested in the horse that played Black Beauty, then google "Docs Keepin Time". He lived for 26 years and in reality probably had a pretty good life as a horse actor. He also featured in a move called "The Black Stallion", which I would also recommend.
Anna Sewell said that her book was written for people who work with horses "... to induce kindness, sympathy and an understanding treatment of horses". This piece of work led directly to the abolishment of bearing reins and to other animal welfare reforms. Whilst I understand parental concern if their children find it upsetting, the compassion for others both human & animal that it engenders is an invaluable life lesson and one which they will be take with them into adult life.
I've seen several Black Beauty films over the years (and the television series). I am pleased to say that it's possibly one of the best adaptations I have seen. Beautifully staged, it will not dissapoint any horse mad daughters (or sons) in your household. As an equine neutral adult, I can appreciate the care taken in the production of this film, and as a previous reviewer commented, it indroduces fairly adult themes to younger viewers (in a gentle way), which is no bad thing.
And onto M.G.Hatfield - an earlier reviewer of this film. What a star!! If you like reviews devoid of punctuation and any clear train of thought, then have a look at other films this person has reviewed. A copy of 'Eats Shoots & Leaves' should be sent to this guy/women without delay.
I'm still laughing...
Told as a love story, from the horses perspective!
Until I saw it, I couldn't imagine how it could be made. :-)
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