I don’t know, I guess when I go see a documentary I’m hoping for some insight into its subject, or at least some information. If I wanted to watch pretty pictures while listening to soothing music I could probably just do that at home with a National Geographic and some headphones.
This documentary is about that guy who bled to death after his colon was perforated while having sex with a horse. This case revealed this little subculture of guys that like to have sex with horses and the farms that cater to them, led to hand-wringing about how the horses were abused because they don’t consent, and caused a law to be passed in Washington state that outlaws sex with animals.
We begin by introducing a number of our main figures, people who go by names such as Coyote, H, The Happy Horseman, and Mr. Hands. I was dutifully writing down all of their names in the expectation that they would eventually start talking in depth about themselves and that their characters wouldn’t all blur together and become completely indistinct. They are into zoophilia, and call themselves “Zoos.” They talk a little bit about how it’s more than sex and they really feel a connection to these animals. We find out that the Internet allowed them to connect with others like themselves and make arrangements to meet. They met at this farm in Seattle where they would drink, then go out to the fields where the horses were. One of them says that they don’t have to force the horses: “You’re giving off pheremones and the horse is going to come up and start rubbing his face on you and if you don’t move you’re going to be bred.”
The guy who ended up dying is Mr. Hands. We find out that he was an engineer for, I think Boeing, and that he had a wife that he was separated from and a kid he enjoyed seeing very much. We meet a guy talking about auditioning for the role of “Cop #1” in a movie, and then we see him in the role, which is how the filmmakers clue us in to the fact that almost everything we’re watching is a re-enactment with professional actors.
Suddenly the case is over and we start talking about the aftermath. An animal rescuer is sent out to take the horses, and says of one of the guys: “It was obvious he was involved. He struck me as a child molestor type. Very creepy.” Then some of the guys talk about how suddenly the media became very invasive, and their lives were ruined. They couldn’t be prosecuted as what they did was not illegal at the time, but the were told that if they didn’t clear town they would be “defamed out of existence.” And that’s pretty much the end.
It’s not long into it that you realize the photography is very nice and pretty. But it’s almost to the end of the film before you realize that that’s about all this film has to offer. I was hoping to learn about these guys; when did they first start to realize they were interested in this? What does it really mean to them? How does it compare with sex with humans? What were the first steps they took to enact their fantasies? What did they think other people would think? Was there anyone they could talk to about it? None of these questions are asked or explored, the guys just gently ramble. It’s as if the filmmakers felt they were not allowed to ask any questions.
I told this to my friend who attended with me, and he said “But it’s not about the people’s psychology, it’s about the specific incident,” to which I replied; Okay, so then what was the incident like? What was the atmosphere at the house like? Were they drunk at the time? Did Mr. Hands just wander off unsupervised and no one really knows what happened? Who are these people that owned the horse? What do they get out of facilitating these encounters?
Eventually we agreed that it was just kind of a “mood piece.” You pay $11 to sit and watch atmospheric photography and listen to soothing music. Before we went in my friend told me that he had heard that this film is a “new kind of documentary,” which perhaps referred to its moodiness of the way they have actors portraying real people. In either case, it does seem to be a new form of documentary: one that contains no information.