An animated film about a group of rabbits, conjures up nostalgic images of goofy cartoons, playful humor, and light-hearted entertainment. Watership Down is anything but that. A grim allegory Watership tells the tale of a group of rabbits looking for a new home, all the while showing the grim dystopia of nature.
Throughout the history of the film Watership Down has gotten an, if not controversial, reputation of being one of the most violent films made for children. This can be seen its original U rating, handed by the British Board of Film Certification, who have being constantly bombarded with complaints since the film’s release. It is really easy why the film’s reputation holds true to this day, many scenes feature cruelty to animals all of whom are shown engaging in violent attacks, one of the characters gets its neck caught in a trap, and a lot of the rabbits are shown to be bleeding profusely.
Beside the violent images, is conscience of very mature themes such as religion, and paranoia. Starting with religion, the underlying mythos of El-ahrairah guides the group of rabbits through their search of a new home. Portraying the necessity of faith in a journey, giving a portraying a religious feel seldom seen in films – animation or not. Secondly with the character of Fiver Watership explore responses of society to who we deem to be paranoid or “crazy”. This theme continues from last week’s film M, which also explored personal mental health, and how it affects individual’s relationship with society.
Watership Down also continues the Film Society’s look into non-American and non-Japanese animation, and this film is a perfect example of a classic film filled with a rich narrative, and beautiful animation. The animation feels very disjointed and broken giving a feeling of stop-motion animation, rather than traditional two-dimensional animation. Not surprising since British animation has a rich history of stop-motion animation from the Quay brothers’ short films, the Wallace and Gromit series, and television shows such as Bagpuss. The animation matches the tone of its film rather successfully in being raw, broken, surreal, and haunting.
Featuring the voice-work of actors such as John Hurt, Richard Briers, Michael Graham Cox, and other British acting luminaries, join fellow Film Society members to watch, and then discuss the film on Friday (23-10-2015) at 5:00pm in Social Science 203.
By Ankur Desai