An animated adaptation of the George Orwell novel, in which farm animals overthrow their owner and adopt socialism — with predictable results. [ Animal Farm credits: Dir: John Halas, Joy Batchelor/ 72 min/ Animated, Drama/ Britain/ Anti-Socialism, Power Corrupts]
“This film, like the story on which it’s based, is a terrific allegory for modern historical events in the Soviet Union and elsewhere.”
George Orwell, like most intellectuals of his day, was a socialist. However, after an international purge by Stalin in which many Trotskyites were assassinated and from which Orwell himself only narrowly escaped, he began to think critically about the “political decency” of then ongoing experiments in socialism. The product of that critical thinking was the novel Animal Farm.
Its essentials are well communicated in this film. Bad farm management, a metaphor for corrupt government, leads to a rebellion in which farm animals drive off the abusive and incompetent farmer/owner who runs the farm on which they live. In its place, the animals put into operation an egalitarian farm-animal society. The pigs, who happen to be the smartest animals, run things, but for the most part it’s a voluntary communal situation and a happy arrangement. “Animal Farm,” as it’s now known, is a great success, and creates unprecedented plenty for all the animals on the farm. However, power soon corrupts.
This film, like the story on which it’s based, is a terrific allegory for modern historical events in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. It’s true to socialist life not only with respect to corruption and poverty, but also with respect to government attempts to control the truth through propaganda, show trials, and the constant restatement of history. In artistic terms, it’s nicely put together, with cute 1950s-style animation and well-chosen music. It doesn’t have quite the inspired touch that Disney might have added, but it’s close, and the underlying story itself is very engaging. Animal Farm would be an especially good film to use as a starting point when explaining to children the tendency for power to corrupt.