Movie Review: Equus

BurtonThumbby Brad Nelson
This has one of the most notable openings to a movie that I have  seen. Burton’s opening monologue is intelligent, while probing and imaginative. And it’s delivered superbly. This is Burton at his best. And this is high-brow drama at its best.

I get bored with Kenneth Branagh, for example, because he simply sounds as if he’s playing Shakespeare. But Burton’s monologue is the real thing. I don’t mean to disparage Branagh, per se. But there is play-acting and then there’s the real deal. What I heard in Burton’s opening monologue is the real deal.

Same thing with Sir John Gielgud. To me, when you’re talking old-style, old-school, dramatic and forceful acting, he was the real deal as well.

The art direction of the opening sequence was superb as well. I love that horse-headed dagger shown in closeup. And they spend some time on it. And then they cut to the horse, the symbolic center of this film.

The horse as an animal symbolizes much, but perhaps most of all it represents restrained power, a beast who can be harnessed and tamed, but whose body, strength, and elegance remind us of who it is before we got hold of it.

All chicks are probably born with a horse fetish. They love them, and the love they have is probably dangerous to talk about. This is one reason this movie is so provocative. It goes where we dare not, but it makes it safe because it’s dealing with a mental patient. But Burton’s opening monologue frames the question much wider.

From the superb opening monologue we move on to Burton, who plays a psychiatrist, first meeting this troubled youth, Strang, who announces his troubles by singing a string of TV jingles in Burton’s office. He’s obviously crazy. And yet, looking at people today, we are those vapid people too. We get our cues for how to live not from great books or great minds, but from vapid TV. But I digress.

A very good theme set forth in Burton’s opening monologue is the idea of touching something extraordinary in these bizarre cases such as Strang. They perhaps remind us how dull and domesticated we have become. And anyone who has been to a third world country (or Detroit) will probably appreciate what the aggregate of domestication is: We call it civilization. As we become inured to civilization, we may be tempted to see the wild side as authentic and infuse it with a glamour that is naïve and forgetful of the horrors often brought forth by the wild side.

But still that wild side does infuse human life with something unique. Politically, the socialists and “Progressives” want to completely domesticate us. I sympathize with the wild side even while not turning a naïve blind eye to the dangers. That wild side can be the thing that allows us to live a life that we can call our own.

First and foremost, Equus is a rare and satisfying mix of the three elements that make movies a unique art form: Great acting, great movie crafting, and it’s about something.

The acting is superb from top to bottom. Even the way Jenny Agutter’s buttocks in the loft of the stable reflected the moonlight was superb. (What a bonus. I forgot that she was in it, and naked tuh boot. There are more beautiful women, but are there any women who look better when putting on or taking off her clothes? Think: Logan’s Run.)

The editing and directing of this film were excellent. It’s so good I can’t imagine this movie being anything but boring or trite on the stage. I’ve got to check out the other directorial works by Sidney Lumet. It was that good. Concise. Beautifully framed. Well paced. Not a wasted moment, and yet nothing was rushed. To my mind, this is as good as it gets. And add in the difficulty factor of the weird-ass subject matter. There were no car chases or explosions that he could cut to for filler.

And speaking of horses, Peter Firth is hung like one. I guess it’s the connection to the horse thing. And I love how he created his own mythology. And to the libtards, no doubt they interpret this as, “See! Religion poisons everything.” And yet as Burton noted, the mother reading scripture to her child has been just about forever the norm. And although parents can screw up their children (with too much religion, too much liberalism, too much this, or too much that), I thought the mother gave a great defense. She noted that, although perhaps her husband could be a little harsh, if you added together all of their parenting faults, nothing could have led to the weird-ass stuff that their son was doing.

And I quite agree. Burton touches on this in one of his monologues about psychiatry and its limitations. He noted that after-the-fact he could bring some help to his patients (and always at some cost to them as “normal” is inserted). But he could never get at what caused someone like this boy to take off on their tangent in the first place. There was some primal element he could not understand or get his hands on.

We see Burton struggle to make this horse-obsessed kid “normal” when Burton himself understands that his own “normal” life is a grey dull blur. He understands that although this kid is troubled, he’s also living out something that is very exciting and meaningful. Burton has honest and introspective thoughts about whether a cure would really be a cure. He’s self-indulgent on this point, and yet his thoughts on the matter show a depth of understanding that probably is way beyond most psychiatrists, let alone people.

The other woman psychiatrist, a colleague with whom Burton discusses this case, is there to ground him in the overall purpose of “ease his pain.” And Burton needs to hear this too. And she has some great insights of her own. What Burton interprets as an accusing stare from the boy she interprets as a plea for help. And she is right. Burton is doing a fair amount of projecting, but such is the occupational hazard of trying to peer deeply into the nature of things.

Burton’s character eloquently espouses the Nietzsche idea of “Be careful in casting out your devil ‘lest you cast out the best thing about you.” Or as a friend said, “you try to get RID of these behaviors… you calm the impulse for the ecstatic and orgasmic, but then what’s left behind? A dreary grey life?” We see that every day in our feminized culture where the men are taught that being masculine is bad and that being feminine is good. The horse is cast out to be replaced by a sheep. And we are left with a lot of pussy men who do not stand for truth or justice but give in lest they do the most horrible thing of all: hurt someone’s feelings.

I cringe every time, for instance, when I see one of these girly-men mindlessly espouse the doctrine of testiclelessness when they say something such as, “It’s a woman’s right to choose.” No. We perhaps might make it a legal right for women to dispose of their unborn babies so that they can have sex without responsibility and not have their careers bogged down by having to care for a child. That we may say bluntly if we are honest. But the girlified man is rarely honest. He simply spouts all the politically correct gibberish he has been taught, performing like a well-trained and testicleless monkey.

This movie is still very relevant to our times, and probably more so. We’re obviously dealing with extremes when dealing with this idea of a kid who has a sexual thing going with horses. But Burton is somewhat reluctant to cure him. He knows that societal “normal” is also to some extent a death sentence for the human spirit. This is where we can rightly merge the discussion of religion, political correctness, or whatever. In order to function in society in groups, we have to have shared standards. We have to be able to suppress some of our baser instincts or society just can’t function well. But how much is too much?

The modern conception of society (at least the traditional Western standard) is that the individual is not to be a cog lost in some vast machine, whether it be a socialist machine or religious machine. This ideal is all but lost now as we have Marxists and “Progressives” running the show. And they have absolutely no limits on their desire for controlling our lives. While most libtards would probably cheer this movie for its full frontal nudity, the message of not getting lost as a cog in a machine and preserving our primal forces would likely be lost on them. Or, more directly, the pussified Westerner now equates “freedom” with full frontal nudity (and sex without responsibility) while he becomes more and more a compliant sheep regarding 90% of the other areas of his life.

Of course, once this troubled kid starts gouging the eyes out of the horses, he has gone too far. But was it too far to ride naked on a borrowed horse once every three weeks? Probably not. But clearly the kid’s problems were more than just a Freudian mixed-up sexuality. He was indeed a bit loony. His behavior contradicts the other modern Freudian conception of sexuality. It’s the idea that if we just express our deepest inner yearnings instead of suppressing them, this works as some kind of auto-therapy. But this is just a nice myth. And in the case of Strang, we see the folly of this notion if taken as a one-size-fits-all dogma.

But certainly sometimes it is better to just let it all hang out and run with the horses. What we see in this boy is an issue that is larger than any one ideology. He is bigger than Freud. He is bigger than Nietzche. Bigger than religion. Bigger than just material secular causes. He’s not just a tightly-wound bunch of complexes to be resolved. There is something that is in this boy to begin with that is a little off but that is also primally majestic. He is all of these things and more and cannot be understood by our typical small and narrow measuring sticks.

Of course, modern man (via the dogma of the Left) has been reduced to an animal where once he was the child of God, so it is typically the conceit of the Left that they can understand man using a narrow measuring stick. (In fact, Marxism does so by parsing all things through the paradigm of race, class, and gender. This is why they are fucking clueless about how the world actually works.)

And this is ultimately why this movie isn’t trite, stupid, or politically naive. Burton’s character frames the entire question of the boy in more than just the material. He is more than just a psychological case. There is something larger than life here. And that viewpoint is getting rare these days. This movie would not be made if only because of this. The subtlety and richness of thought to make such a movie no longer exists or is far too rare. • (1028 views)

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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.

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