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Making History


Steven Spielberg is famous for making films based on historical events (such as Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List) and he has been acclaimed for capturing their essence on film. Filmmakers usually undertake considerable historical research in order to present a believable representation of the past.

When watching historical films, it is helpful to remember that the images we see are representations of history, not history itself. For example, films sometimes present historical characters in ways that will make them more appealing to modern audiences, or make complicated situations seem simpler so audiences will be able to relate to them.

From your understanding of War Horse so far, what do you think might be Steven Spielberg’s reasons for choosing to create a film version of this particular story, with its First World War setting? What do you think are the main challenges in setting a film in this period?

Watch this interview with Michael Morpurgo about the challenges of creating historical fiction. What does you learn from this interview about these challenges and what does it suggest about the relevance of War Horse for audiences today? Try to summarise your ideas in three bullet points.