An RTE-BBC co-production, this peculiar, often beautiful documentary presents the racing year through the big, brown eyes of three horses – Ardalan, Joncol and Cuan Na Grai – at one of Ireland’s top stables. Filmmaker Liz Mermin’s approach is a sort of inversion of ‘March of the Penguins’-style anthropomorphism: rather than frame animals’ behaviour as if they were people, she seeks to portray the horses’ personalities and experiences on their own terms, with secondary attention to the ‘team of humans’ who attend them. It’s an interesting idea that works to a limited extent but is hobbled by the fact that horses are just not that interesting as subjects – and where they are, it’s impossible to get more than a superficial appreciation of their thought-world. Cuan Na Grai, for instance, seems to have some kind of mood disorder but while jarring, arrhythmic music might complement his enervated movements, it gets nowhere near unpacking them. Call me anthropocentric, but it’s the people in this film who make the strongest impression, and their words: one contender, we’re told, ‘ran like a hairy goat’.
Thursday January 28 2010