I bought The Horse Whisperer dvd in order to familiarize myself with dramas involving horses. There is a movie out now, 50 to 1, that caught my interest. So I did a minimal amount of research, the best I am capable of right now, and wrote it up. At this point, I feel as though I've reviewed enough westerns and western-themed movies, as well as relevant, related documentaries, to move on. When I think back on so many movies, I invariably draw mental pictures of guns, towns, signs like Saloon, General Store, or Sheriff, whiskey poured into shot glasses, heated arguments, love triangles, and many other standard elements in westerns -- in addition to horses. Incidentally, the rating on the back of The Horse Whisperer dvd cover is interesting: PG, Mature Theme. Quite a combination. Not the usual.
The Horse Whisperer is not a western in the traditional sense. But in a more modern sense, to my mind, it fits the bill. Personally, I've been out west nearly five years and counting. A lot of the time, I can hardly stand it. There is far too much sunlight, spaciousness, and openness of every sort. I am offended by western friendliness. After long stints in New York City and Chicago, I equate it with impertinence. But there is just as much to like, if not love. It is nice enough to see mountains every single day. Skies really are blue, not grey, the way they are up north. But the busy commerce of the eastern seaboard and the midwest that blots out all else is often found lacking. About horses and riding, however, I cannot offer up a single word of criticism. I rode in the suburbs of Chicago as well as the Bronx, believe it or not. For horses and horsemanship, I say, the west truly is the best.
As far as the movie is concerned, Picasso's Guernica is the only piece of art that comes to my mind as a basis of comparison/contrast. Within this canvas, the German Luftwaffe is the tormentor of pure innocence, represented by animals being literally torn to pieces. In The Horse Whisperer, it is merely the daily grind, a truck in this instance, that sends an unfortunate but beautiful horse into a world of pain. Mental anguish might not have held much legitimacy in the salt mines of ancient Rome, but in a slightly more enlightened atmosphere, it is as real as any concrete, physical object possessing mass and volume.
Both Jewish and Muslim legends maintain that King Solomon had a magical rapport with animals. It was not so much that he spoke to them, as pet-owners do, but that he understood their "language". This characteristic is sometimes referred to to commemorate his reputation for wisdom, which, surprisingly, encompassed the animal kingdom. The horse whisperer in history developed this gift and was called upon from time to time to put it to use. The importance of horses, especially in Native American culture, after the arrival of conquistadors, can hardly be underestimated. They are still held in high regard. The horse whisperer is the basis of the character played by Robert Redford in the movie.
There is not much to say about the movie that has not already been published. Simply put, movies are still primarily a visual medium. As such, the film's cinematography, focused mainly but not exclusively on horses, will find easy acceptance. They are pleasing to the eye. The storyline is great, paralleling rehabilitation in both the animal and human worlds. But as I mentioned, there is nothing new for me to add except by way of contributing another voice to the ongoing debates, perhaps completely meaningless, about what movies are better than others. These subjective, artistic judgements are hard to decide. But one thing is certain. The very best live forever.