Thursday, November 18, 2004

Equus Directed by Sidney Lumet

Equus, dramatically, is focused on the actions of a 17 yr. Old boy. We come to learn that he blinded six horses with a metal spike. This is (possibly) due to his a) tempestuous familial life b) entirely repressed sexuality c) flagellant view of life. The motive is never made perfectly clear, but we glean that it is, as usual, an amalgam of all the above. If this were the entirety of Equus, it would merely be a semi-interesting psychological profile. Instead, the whole story, the real meat of it, lies inside the emotionally, sexually, and mentally dormant psychiatrist (Richard Burton) who treats the boy.

The psychiatrist is trapped – by his loveless marriage, by his job he hates, and by the person he has become. To escape, and possibly to confront, his life, he occupies himself with Ancient Greece – specifically its history and drama. The use of Ancient Greece is twofold: on one hand, it works as a plot device to deepen the viewer’s knowledge of the character; on the other, Equus is a filmic adaptation of Peter Schaffer’s stage-play. (The screenplay adapted by Schaffer himself.) The reference to Ancient Greece reinforces the idea that what is on screen is classical tragedy. Furthermore, the boy is enraptured by the name Equus, Latin for horse. The commonality of classical interest in the boy and the man does well to enforce their connection - the younger maims horses, the elder dreams (in the literal sense) of being a Greek priest and slaughtering children.

Equus is an interesting study of humanity in the broadest terms. Interesting because it is reminiscent of Samuel Beckett’s cyclical exercises in human futility, and broad because it is equilaterally applicable. Here is a man, a psychiatrist, well known in his field, and even admired. But he is stuck and realizes that no amount of shoving will free him. He narrates the film, delivering deadpan to the camera lines about his inner turmoil and his inability to do anything about that turmoil. It is a compelling film because of its compelling subject matter: the largely non-compelling modern man.


Post a Comment

<< Home