HORSES: THE STORY OF EQUUS
Three foals are born on the same night. For six months they live with their mother before they are separated and left to roam. At the end of their first year they are sold at auction, and each foal embarks on a different life course. The Black, sold to a stud farm, escapes from his trailer after a road accident and eventually joins a herd of wild horses in the high country. The Chestnut begins the gruelling training required to become a racehorse; she overcomes a cruel injury to attain the ultimate prize, though it’s not on the racetrack. The Bay is primed for the highly competitive sport, Eventing; when that aspiration fails, he becomes part of a trained movie animal business.
Review by Paul Kalina:
Blending the imperatives of adventure, drama, nature and wildlife film, large-format veteran Michael Caulfield makes a solid fist of this modestly conceived but handsomely produced, FFC-funded IMAX film. With the interwoven stories of three horses and the humans with whom they interact, plus a generous sprinkling of scientific information (much of which is conveyed via Gabriel Byrne’s narration), the dominant theme of this 47-minute film is the co-dependent relationship that exists between man and horse. Humans saved the horse from extinction, it turns out, and are the only species apart from its own with which horses form bonds.
Relying on a somewhat functional storytelling device, the narrative spins out a series of safe and edifying dramas. In the Chestnut is a time-honoured, archetypal account of overcoming adversity and the ultimate maternal prize - responsibility for the continuation of the species. Via the Bay comes a universal story of unspoken bonds of partnership and trust, while the fate of the Black is a subtle reminder of irrepressible survival instincts. Shot by Tom Cowan, Horses uses its large format to full advantage in striking aerial shots of the mountains and tightly-edited sequences on the racetrack. Picturesque, kinetic and with a seamless continuity despite a protracted 18-months of principal photography and range of locations, Horses at least avoids the contrivances that befall other large-format films.
At the same time, Horses coyly avoids plumbing the more poignant elements of human and animal behaviour that other, braver films, such as Babe and Shiloh, have traded. While those and scores of other films have shown the overwhelming emotional power anthropomorphism can wield, Horses is a stolid, clinical and phlegmatic film. Those of us who have shed many tears at the altar of animal-themed family fare - be it the old couple in Lassie Come Home who promised to keep the lantern in the window burning in case the forlorn dog needed to come back, to Babe asking Fly, “Can I call you mum?” - won’t have to muster their courage for this. But neither are we likely to be particularly moved.
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HORSES: THE STORY OF EQUUS (G)
NARRATION: Narrated by Gabriel Byrne
PRODUCER: Liz Butler
DIRECTOR: Michael Caulfield
SCRIPT: Michael Caulfield
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tom Cowan
EDITOR: Melanie Sandford
MUSIC: Roger Mason
RUNNING TIME: 47 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: IMAX
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 12, 2002 (Sydney/Melbourne)