2 April 2006 | bob the moo
A good story of course and thus worth seeing but the narration-heavy delivery makes it more like an audio book than a film
Fed up with the treatment from farmer Jones, the animals of Manor Farm gather in a meeting to listen to Old Major tell them of his hopes for a socialist revolution to improve their lives. Sadly, mid-song, Old Major dies of a heart attack but by then his message had been passed on. The next morning Jones is met with resistance and driven off his own land and, when he returns with friends to take it back, a great battle ensues that the animals win. Thus begins the new, fairer farm where all animals are equal and everyone shares the work as well as having a share of the profits. However this equality soon starts to have exceptions as leaders rise up from within the ranks.
There is no doubting the value of the story or the intelligence of the source material and the decision of the film to stick closely to Orwell's book is where its strength comes from. I love the story and always have, it is well written, sharply judgemental and a cautionary tale that is rightly used heavily in schools. The socialist system rises up but soon some want more rights than others and soon the leaders of the rebellion start emulating the habits of Jones and the, once proud standards are gradually watered down. The broad characters are well written and, although they don't have any depth, they fulfil the requirements of the story telling.
The animation looks dated but given that it is now over 50 years old this is no real surprise, nor a problem. No, the problem with the film is the delivery. Heath is the narrator while Denham does the voices of all the animals; now this sounds like Denham will be carrying the majority of the film but in reality he has little to do because the film is mostly delivered in narration. This is all well and good but it does make the film feel like it is more an audio book with pictures rather than a film. As a result there isn't the emotional impact that there should have been and, although you feel sorry for the characters it is more a general feeling rather than a genuine care for the "people".
Many reviewers have commented on the ending and they are right to do so because if even an ending felt tacked on to produce a "happy" conclusion then it was this one. I understand that no producer wants to try and sell a negative product but the end of the book was fine as it was it made a firm point and left a memorable impression whereas this one just feels wrong. Overall though it is a good film that is worth seeing due to the source material but the narrative approach lessens its value as a film and made me think that I should have just reread the book.