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Arts & Culture

Rob Edelman: Animals And Humans

Cinematically-speaking, horses generally are portrayed as being in the service of humankind and controlled by humans, who believe they are superior simply because horses are merely animals. In sagas of the Old West, for example, horses are little more than modes of transportation. Or in films from NATIONAL VELVET to SEABISCUIT, they are speedsters who zip along racetracks at record paces and win fame for their owners, trainers, or riders.

However, OF HORSES AND MEN, an unusual, sobering film from Iceland, offers a completely different take on horses. And you do not have to be an equine lover to embrace this meditative, attention-grabbing tale. OF HORSES AND MEN will be screened at The Linda, WAMC’s Performing Arts Studio, on Monday evening, April 4, in an event sponsored by the Capital Cinema Cultural Exchange. Plus, IngvarEggertSigurðsson, one of the film’s stars, will be making a special guest appearance.

OF HORSES AND MEN opens with a man, played by Sigurðsson, who is attempting to harness and mount a horse. He talks to the animal soothingly, but she won’t comply. It’s as if she is her own spirit. But he eventually succeeds, and he rides her. Somehow, he has won out over her but, then, something jarring happens, something that is better seen than described. What then follows is a series of mini-stories involving different characters who reside in the same Icelandic valley and how they are connected to and relate to horses. 

As these tales unfold, questions arise: Do humans really lord it over horses or, for that matter, animals in general? If so, how and why? And ultimately, are humans really superior to horses? The characters in OF HORSES AND MEN may think they are superior not just to horses but to all other non-humans. However, as the film plays itself out, a point of view emerges. Too many mortals may be consumed by greed or egotism or whatever, while animals are just alive. Animals are concerned simply with the basics of survival. They only will attack or kill out of a need for sustenance. They will not do so out of weakness or vengeance. 

In OF HORSES AND MEN, humans want to tame horses, ride horses, calm them into relaxing while controlling them. But is it always that simple? Humans may abuse animals, but wouldn’t it be nice if humans were more like them? Wouldn't it be nice if all humans cared about were the basics of life, rather than self-indulgence, vanity, or the desire to be in control? OF HORSES AND MEN works as an allegory relating to a person’s craving to dominate, to be the boss. But as the film clearly demonstrates, this does not always work out.

Rob Edelman has authored or edited several dozen books on film, television, and baseball. He has taught film history courses at several universities and his writing has appeared in many newspapers, magazines, and journals. His frequent collaborator is his wife, fellow WAMC film commentator Audrey Kupferberg.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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