ÊTRE CHEVAL || 2016, France / USA || Documentary || Directed by – Jérôme Clément-Wilz / Written by – Jérôme Clément-Wilz || Running time: 63 mins.
Horse-Being is the story of Karen, a former teacher and father of a daughter. This documentary follows her training with an American cowboy for her transformation into a horse.
While the concept sounds bizarre, even more bizarre because it is real, the film refuses to give into its surface value and director Jerome Clément-Wilz sensitive approach makes it seem like so much more than a report on a flamboyant and little known about form of fetishism. First and foremost, the film does document the arduous training closely. This is a training that involves discipline, sensorial restriction and extreme bondage, including impossibly heavy hoof like boots. The idea is to come as close to moving and sensing existance as a horse as possible, and the director seems to pay tribute to the painstaking process and revealing his protagonist’s struggle.
But the film also offers an insightful take on why Karen is putting herself through it, through her own monologues. In one sequence, she compares the restrictions imposed by the “real world” and modern society as being the real bondage. It’s hard to argue against her. Especially given the fact that Horse-Being‘s take home message is very much driven by the documenting of a peculiar and specific process in order to support the idea of a pursuit of liberation, even if this means defying conventional gender, or more widely, existential classification.
A final, take home point is spoken by the director himself, in a conversation about whether animals or people have souls, with the pony-play trainer. He says that he believes that all things on this world are connected and are part of one another. This synergy between all things, from humans to rocks by way of animals and plants, is a hopeful message of tolerance, and completes the idea of everyday life as being the real bondage.
The fact that Horse-Being is so thought provoking is what makes it so fascinating. This leads to a somewhat unexpected interaction with the viewer that is made all the more solemn and meditative through its beautiful photography, that embraces the countryside rural setting of its event, a creative use of montage, and the androgynous voice of a soprano accompaining the narrative throughout the film’s duration. – 4/5