On March 31st, on the occasion of the centenary of the First World War start, in 61 cinemas spread around England, it was shown the film based on the novel Private Peaceful (here the review, here the trailer) by Michael Morpurgo.
The initiative, dedicated especially to the schools, saw at the picturehouse Ritzy in Brixton the presence of two extraordinary guests : the young London actor George MacKay (the main character Tommo), who introduced the screening and the writer Michael Morpurgo who has participated in an interesting Q & A with students after it.
Q: If you could be one of your characters, which would you choose?
M: A young man because I’m not young anymore.
Q:When you saw the movie for the first time, the actors were as you imagined them when you wrote the book?
M: No and they can’t be. When you write as well as when you read, in your head you have your own idea about the character. But they did a great job.
Q: Among those you have written, which is your favorite book?
M: I think it’s always the last you wrote. So, in this case, it’s called Listen to the Moon and I’m finishing to write it. But I love also The Batterfly Lion.
Q: Have you ever thought of becoming an actor?
M: My mum was an actress and my dad too. It’s hard, you spend your life pretending, I don’t like it but I’d like to be Robert Redford.
Q: You have published more than 120 books. There are some works that publishers did not want to publish?
M: Yes. I’m reminded, for example, when I was about 24 years old I wrote a story about King Arthur. I thought it was a great story and I was upset they didn’t want to publish it…when I read it 20 years later I understood they were right. It was rubbish because when you write you have to belive in what you are writing and you have to go under the character skin or your story will be just a list of events one after the other, and nothing more.
Q: Who inspired you to become a writer?
M: The kids, my students when I was a teacher.
Q: Why do many of your stories are set during the war and they are all stories full of sadness?
M: You have to write about what you care, about what matters to you. My uncle was killed during the 2WW. I don’t remember him but there was a picture in the house and he was like a hero in uniform. But he was also the reason why my mum cried. One day a man came to my house. One of those who “do not have to stare into.” He had a side of his face completely burned and he was fascinating and frightening for a child like me. Getting older your friends begin to die and you realize that you are mortal. You start being surrounded by the loss. All this is what the stories are about in my novels. Also now there is practically no survivors of 1WW so it’s up to us tell the story and read what they wrote and remember wars change the world in which we live.
Q:What advice would you give to anyone who wants to write?
M: First of all you have to be connect with the place about you’re going to write in your story. Second of all you have to put yourself in the character and what matters for you need to be the center stage in the story.
A wonderful initiative to remember to the adults the importance of memory and to the children the tragedy of the war in a world where, as happened at the Ritzy, they are so used to shoot in video games that the death of a young soldier raised laughs for a bad word said from his murderess, but that of a horse has generated sorrow.
“It’s no good wishing for the impossible. Don’t wish. Remember. Remembrances are real”.