Horse movies

I’m an animal lover. One of my favorite movies is The Black Stallion, and that movie had everything to do with my wanting to see Alexander despite the reviews. I saw the preview, I knew that horse from the legend, and I had to see the movie. Didn’t concern myself with who was playing Alexander. The last thing I expected was to come out of the movie a Colin Farrell fan.

That horse movie changed my life. I can show you the evidence. This early example of Alexander fan poetry is expressive on the surface, but full of visual descriptions and stage directions, and observations about human feeling and motivation are scant and simplistic. This passage about Bucephalus is the only excerpt from my early attempts that I consider presentable, and it only works because the horse has great physical stage presence and unthought-provoking motivation.

Coursing away from the circling throng to emerge from the slant light
under the shade-threshing cloud, feathered feet in suspension, caught midflight
turning along the arena’s packed earth like the sleek surf on beach sand
smoothly subsiding and rising as though no one wave ever broke and
touched on the shore, the black stallion tore upright and pawed at the bright air
startling even his handlers, giving a storm wind-pitched cry, hair
belling around the abrupt back-flung arc of his neck in a swirling
hurricane scatter of wind-ridden strands, heaven’s banner unfurling.
Philip responded, impressed with the horse’s magnificent challenge,
sending a pair of men straight in to catch the loose reins as the black lunged
violently, tearing his handlers’ hold on the rope tugging backwards.
Passing an expert, appreciative eye over powerful legs, toward
steep sloping shoulders, a beautiful back, the thick curve of compact strength
driving his sun-striking stance on firm hind legs – not braced but stock still – length
giving his massive build elegant height and the promise of great speed,
Philip admired the animal openly, letting his hopes feed
boldly on fury, the heady abandon that burned in the black’s gaze,
pouring in billows of dawn-silvered steam down his thrashing, uncurbed raised
neck and exploding in whistling snorts from his fine, flashing jaws, wide
flaring wet nostrils contracting, releasing, betraying the inside
panic a breaker of horses could calm with a breath-seizing soothe-word.
Here stood a warrior’s companion, a horse to be feared and remembered.

In scenes with more human interaction I tried to describe, the superficiality of my grasp of these dimensions of the film was obvious even to me. I struggled to remember or infer anything about why anyone did what they did as I wrote, and felt that the writing was unacceptably flat where I hadn’t resorted to digressions into still life, political geography or nature imagery as metaphor.

This killed me, because I hadn’t decided to write an Alexander epic in honor of Bonzo the star stud. He seemed too young for the part. It was Colin Farrell who had impressed me, and I wasn’t capturing what mattered about his performance in any way, shape or form.

I got into writing fan poetry about other movies to practice, since apart from Alexander there would be less riding on getting it right in my mind, and ghastly false starts wouldn’t be so devastating. But fighting nerves wasn’t even half the battle. The obstacles were the same for any human subject. I had no insight into where the lines in the dialogue were coming from, what was going unsaid, or what gave the characters unity of personality and defined the actors’ interpretations of the parts. I was starting to ask the questions that would lead me to believe I’m a bit autistic, and have some attentional deficits to work on with respect to human behavior.

Only when I decided to try first person and second person narration and work out the inner life of the characters by putting myself in their shoes did the thoughts begin to flow. I have several poems in Alexander’s voice addressed to Hephaistion in Greek meters like this one, which is much richer in interpretation of the emotional drama.

You never meant to let me win, the only one I knew to trust, and
grappling with you I had to find the grip too
firm to slip, use all my weight and insight – prove that greatness
and power and not the mere words were of my blood, that fear
and failure could not touch my name. To come near in the darkness
and tell me why you know that this myth can come true
stills the doubt inside, because from you belief is a pure gift,
free from the cruel exchange flattery trades on, but strange,
superstitious, a mystical faith. We kept our two heroes
close to our hearts, but the fates they sought were symbolic, hate
and revenge were a pretext for courage, death was an embrace,
we were lovers before we were men and in our war
excellence was the prize. Ideas that moved us were perfect,
unreal, and daunting. Faith in them left us doubting
religion, sense perception, the whole of our bounded, modest world.
We might conquer the earth for them, but they would give birth
and meaning to the beyond even then. You, Roxane, both more
and yet not enough, like no one on earth, who could strike
me to the core with your eyes, you fought but loved above yourselves
and spoke true. What if I failed, fled home, lived out a lie?
You stood to correct me, console me, guard what was mine, and
pledge eternity by me, everything on the line.
I sought in you my last refuge from the words said in my name,
my mother’s hate, sure I had to inherit pure
anger from all her disappointments, trust no one, let my name
be my guide. My wife looked on when we said that life
moved on but we would not part. She gambled her life, let her hate be
known, fought to damn our love, and raged, the bed cursed, but it fanned
flames up in my breaking heart, and I bedded her and prayed.
Holding your head in darkness I know, no one can supplant
you, but her voice, so dark, intimate and yet as stark
and unforgiving as the sky, warns me to give customs
sway and listen to my queen. What can be said, the why
and how of my true destiny, she does not know, but her embrace,
like yours, tells me I’m saved, is a sign it is time.

Making a thing about being a fan has been quite a journey for me. One thing Colin has said more than once is that in his mind, “love is curiosity,” and as incomplete as that sounds, I owe him for instilling greater curiosity in me. Film appreciation is helping me tune in to interactivity, relationship dynamics, and above all perspective taking, something people on the autism spectrum are sometimes told they will never understand. I doubt that, a lot of the obtuseness typical of people with autism has more to do with missing information (not being able to pick out the salient information) than willful disinterest or innate inability to grasp the existence of other minds. Work on attentional deficits with eye contact, and understanding of how to interpret eye contact starts to develop. Should be the same with theory of mind. It’s far less confusing in the abstract than in practice. How can I have perspective in my working vocabulary and be closed out of the world of its understanding? Maybe it should be intuitive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be approached analytically instead. If I can trust my own judgment, I’m making up for lost time now.

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Filed under Acting, Dream Ensemble, Poetry

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