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This film is a classic, beautifully made and yes its upsetting. I sat with my 4 year old little girl and explained it to her, and she was in wonderment at it and although a little upset - she enjoyed it. She learnt more from this film than she will ever do if even if she watched 100 Disney fantasies. I'm fed up with parents wanting to shield their children from every tiny little thing that might cause them upset. As a child I baled by eyes out at the cruelty to black beauty it didn't do me any harm - it taught be humanity and compassion!!!!!!These days children's films fail to challenge children - its all fantasy - I think this is more worrying.
This movie follows the life-story of an otter. There is no animation, a
minimum of human characters, hardly any dialogue and no silly
anthropomorphizing of animals or any embarrassing animal stunts. The
film is based around the impeccable footage of animals interacting with
one another and their environment, and the rich narration by Peter
Ustinov of a genuinely meaningful tale of an animal.
Another reviewer has mentioned that this film should not be shown to children as certain sad/cruel aspects of the story would be upsetting for them. I can't disagree more. This video-tape was watched and re-watched by my siblings and I through our early childhood and we loved it. There are moments of joy and hilarity mixed with poignant and tragic occurrences, BUT nothing that a child can't handle. Certainly nothing worse then Bambi's mother getting shot, Simba's Dad being killed in a stampede or Nemo's mother and siblings being eaten by another carnivorous fish! This movie is a classic, and certainly a genuine feat of film-making. One of the best uses of Peter Ustinov's glorious wit and rumbling voice I have ever seen on film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
To be honest, I don't remember a whole lot of "Tarka the Otter", only
that it was unlike almost anything else I watched as a kid.
It's a kid's film, with an otter anthropomorphised for the purposes of presenting a message about life; that it can be cruel, and not just in the animal kingdom.
Peter Ustinov supplies an excellent narration, in the style of a documentary.
A few reviewers on here have complained that the film is not a child's film, as it is billed, because it is unusually harsh and bleak. For me, therein lies its charm, and for a child to watch an upsetting film will not kill them. More likely it will help them through adolescence and early adulthood.
My name is Peter Talbot. I hand raised the otter 'Spade' guided by
Philip and Jeanne Wayre. I worked and lived the story with all the
animals on screen as the principal animal handler for the two years of
The Book 'Tarka the Otter' is a modern classic and has much to do with The suffering of The First World War. Otters hiding from huntsmen underground is quite analogous with soldiers in the trenches.
Henry Williamson (the author)was one of the world's greatest nature writers. He chose the locations with David Cobham and allowed the film to be made, having turned down Disney, only on the understanding that it would be, authentic, educational and not sentimentalized - there is very much more to the story than is immediately apparent.
In the intervening years I have written and posted much about my time with Spade (Tarka) and all the animals in the film. The whole story is now an ebook called 'Ripple of Ancient Sunlight' and can be found on most on-line e-book retailers. If you wish to contact me please drop into the 'Tarka and me' Facebook. page or Twitter, Peter Talbot - Tarka_andme .
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Many people think that "Tarka the Otter" isn't a suitable film for
children because of its content, yet they would allow their children to
watch the beauty of Watership Down or Disney films such as Bambi, The
Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, the Jungle Book etc. They all have
upsetting things that happen in them, but just because it's a cartoon,
therefore less realistic, parents tend to think that it is suitable for
children, as they won't get as upset compared to it being filmed as a
non cartoon film. I have to disagree with this.
Tarka the Otter is a beautiful film and very artistic, and while yes, it is a sad ending, the last words have stuck with me. The scenery shots are also as beautiful as the film and I was so surprised to find that I hated a dog so much, Boatman did very well, I love all animals and it is very hard for animals to make me dislike them.
I taped this on DVD a few weeks ago and finally got around to watching
it. The photography alone is stunning, and the otters are so beautiful.
A sad ending was referenced, and at first I didn't know, but was
watching with my mom, and when Ustinov narrated three bubbles leaving
the scene, she was convinced and convinced me that it was the three
otters: Tarka, his mate, and their baby moving to a new location. My
almost 4-year-old granddaughter was watching, too, and LOVED it. She
handled the deaths just fine, including Tarka's mother bleeding after
being shot. The movie shows some death, but much more life. I like the
music, the story, the scenery, everything.
Since writing this review, I have read other reviews about the movie, watched again alone, and watched it with the 3-year-old referenced above, as well as her 7-year-old sister. No doubt, Tarka died in the end, and the 7-year-old was very sympathetic with Tarka's difficulties throughout the movie. It didn't bother her when Tarka and the otters ate the eels or fish or went after chickens, her loyalty was with the otters and she kept saying she couldn't keep watching. Each time, though, she did keep watching and enjoyed the movie, and perhaps thankfully fell asleep before the last hunt. As the scenes went forward, the 3-year-old remembered the entire movie from scene to scene and was as enthralled the second time around as much as the first. But with the sensitive child, it offered what I perceive as an opportunity to see that nature is, among other things, cruel.
Tarka encounters marvelous and varied experiences in his full, albeit difficult, life. This little otter stepped out of the normal path because of being alone. It enabled him to be a worthy opponent for the trained dogs and even to take out one of the enemy in the end. This movie represents a triumph over adversity. Tarka finally succumbed, but what a valiant little creature from a fierce breed. Butterflies can be fierce, hummingbirds are fierce, dolphins live passionately and fiercely. It seems to me that this is an aspect of nature to embrace and celebrate, maybe to emulate, not to run from and condemn. Because he was so resourceful and good at surviving, he was able to leave cubs behind. His difficulties weren't limited to being hunted by dogs.
A final note about varying comments about anthropomorphism in the movie. My understanding of this fallacy is to attribute human qualities and feelings to non-human creatures and things. This movie does that in abundance, but I don't have a problem with it. I tend to take an anthropomorphic view oftentimes, anyway. Looking at Tarka's life from a perspective we can relate to helps us to relate to the life experiences of the otters. So I say, yes, anthropomorphism runs rampant in the move, and that this is okay. It takes the movie out of the realm of being a cold, emotionless documentary, the narratives of which, btw, are frequently highly anthropomorphic in their presentation.
Tarka the Otter is a perhaps dark and bleak film, but I also think it is a poignant one too. And above all in my opinion, it is wonderful. Tarka the Otter is a beautifully filmed movie, the cinematography is lovely and the scenery is gorgeous, and it is appropriately scored too with some very pretty and haunting themes. The narration is both droll and literate and the story is touching. Tarka is adorable and Peter Ustinov is absolutely brilliant in this film with his distinctive voice serving him well. Oh and the ending has me bawling, even after countless times of seeing the film. The film may be a little overlong perhaps, but it is a wonderful movie all the same and well worth catching. 9/10 Bethany Cox
What a treasure this movie is. The book is pretty good too. Sometimes the sequences between the pivotal events in Tarka's life can be little long winded, but overall the plot is interesting. It will make you cry if you are one of those tenderhearted saps. The anti-sport hunting message of the film makes it all the more meaningful. I was a vegetarian for a while until I found a copy of this on vhs and watched it. Now I supplement my diet with fish. I cook my fish though, unlike Tarka who eats 'em alive (eels too! yuk).
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First of all, let's be clear: No one can say this movie is harmless to
children. That depends entirely on the child and the circumstances
surrounding the viewing of the movie.
Secondly, Bambi's mom getting shot or any of the other staple losing- your-parent(s) tragedies in mentioned animated Disney movies is not comparable to this movie for two big reasons: the live action, and when it occurs. The others don't appear to be showing a real living creature you've grown attached to during an entire movie being finally massacred by dogs in a river. Dramatized animation with an unnamed parental figure at an early point in a movie doesn't have this impact.
My mother sat my brother and I down to watch this movie when I was around 5, thinking it would be a nice Disney flick for us to get lost in. We rooted for the otter and couldn't wait to see him get away in an exciting ending. Then, we were shocked senseless at the unexpected brutality, and held our mother accountable for setting us up for such heartache. She felt betrayed by Disney and that would be the last time my mother would show us anything from them without researching it a great deal. Further, it turned us both off of Disney for most of our lives.
Yes, children need to see that things don't work out perfectly. But, many children (and their mothers) might see this movie expecting a very different payout from a Disney flick. The main hero doesn't make sacrifices and lose loved ones only to emerge a bigger person in the end; he's just flat out torn to pieces.
So, if you're thinking of showing this to your kids, at the very least, let them know what's in store. And in all cases, remember it helps to look at things from more than one side.
I watched this as a 5-6 year old. I also loved "Animals are Beautiful People," "The Glacier Fox," "Three Warriors," "Watership Down," "Black Beauty," and "Hambone and Hillie." I find "Tarka" is similar to the new Meerkat Manor on AP. It is based on real-life behaviors and issues in daily life. Tarka and other movies in my list also dealt with animal cruelty and poaching/ hunting practices. And I agree with the person who mentioned Bambi and the Lion King's graphic content. Sure, it's animated, but I have had to explain "why did such and such happen" when I've watched "nemo" and "the lion king" with my students who knew nothing of animal life. I learned a helluva lot more about animals and respect for life watching Tarka and other wildlife films, including the Wonderful World of Disney doc's the Disney channel used to show late at night, than many adults know now. Sure, it was sad and heart-wrenching in places, but I never needed a course in anger management or counseling. My only questions to my parents were in regards to the humans and why did the people do the things they did.
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