Of Girls and Horses (Von Mädchen und Pferden) begins with a young female troublemaker (Ceci Chuh) being sent by her mother to a horse sanctuary on a work placement. It’s a desperate measure to try and tame the wild and self-destructive path on which her daughter is headed. It doesn’t take long for a bond between Chuh’s character Alex and her instructor to begin forming a bond, one that’s mediated and sustained by the horses which they work with. Here Monika Treut (a noted gay/lesbian director) shifts her view somewhat from the homosexual relationships that take place in the film in favour of meditating on the bond between horse and woman.
Perhaps what’s most surprising here is relationships are allowed to play out at a believable and relaxed speed. There are no great leaps to be had here, instead we focus on a few key characters who for various reasons meet each other at a horse sanctuary and find the peace and inner contentment which they struggle to elsewhere in the world. There are a few scenes dotted throughout the film in which the real world breaks through in the form of TV and radio announcements. Most often these talk of politics; more specifically Angela Merkel’s unrelenting Thatcher-esque dictum. Some of the characters feel strongly against her and her policies and yet ultimately they display little fight in the end. They value the peace they find with the horses to be a far more important goal to pursue than the external ‘real’ world.
There are weaknesses here to go with the strong narrative approach, most obviously there is a period where a character leaves the site to head into the city for a period. Now the function of this is purely to advance the plot, which is fine and it doesn’t feel forced, however we are shown what goes on away from the sanctuary which is a move that is both unnecessary and disturbs the film’s flow and feel. This isn’t the worst mistake the film could have made, but combined with a few small other issues and you are a left a little frustrated by the combined wasted time.
Despite a few scenes not being relevant to the story there isn’t too much to seriously criticise here. Of Girls and Horses is a considered and poetic study of the bonds between gender, people and horses. It features consistent good supporting performances and a strong lead by Ceci Chuh who manages to play the sterotypical ‘troubled’ kid with honesty and an emotional openness which greatly benefits the film. This isn’t a film specifically for the gay community, rather its a simple look at humanity and our shared relationships which is at once a departure and a logical continuation of Treut’s body of work.
What is the film’s greatest strength? It might just be Chuh’s performance, although many things work well.
Its greatest weakness? There are a few scenes here which bog the film down.
Would I see it again? Yes I would, given time I’ll revisit Of Girls and Horses.
Thanks for reading. Of Girls and Horses will be released on DVD on 20th July when you will be able to order it from Peccadillo Pictures themselves, from Amazon, iTunes and every self-respecting retailer. Before you go please drop your thoughts off in the comment box below!