The film opens with the mythology of the rabbits. When the sun god, Lord Frith created the world, all the animals grazed on grass. The rabbits quickly multiplied, eating everything in sight. The sun god warned the king of the rabbits, who dismissed the sun god saying his rabbits were the strongest of all the animals. In retaliation, the sun god made the other animals predators with the rabbits being their food. But the sun god bestowed speed and cunning upon the rabbits to give them a fighting chance.
The main story concerns Fiver, a runt of a rabbit, who is a seer and has prophetic visions of his warren’s destruction. His warnings go unheeded by the Chief Rabbit so Fiver and his brother Hazel leave the warren with six other rabbits to establish a new warren. Their journey has many perils in the form of dogs, foxes, badgers, even other rabbits. In fact, other rabbits seem to be the worst enemy of Fiver, Hazel and their companions, particularly General Woundwart.
Despite being animated, this is not a children’s movie. There are many violent, disturbing images and lots of blood. The world of Watership Down is perilous; the predators and other enemies of the rabbits are numerous and there is a palpable sense of fear running throughout the movie. Perhaps most disturbing is the rabbit-on-rabbit violence, which can be taken as a metaphor for human-on-human violence.
Worth a look if you like adventure stories about anthropomorphized rabbits striving to survive in a harsh world.
Skip it if images of cute bunnies maiming and killing each other will upset you.
As an added bonus, the library’s copy is a Criterion Collection release.
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