Devor and his scriptwriting partner Charles Mudede’s film tells the story of one such ‘Zoo’: separated Boeing engineer Kenneth Pinyan (named Mr Hands in their film and played by John Paulsen) who, in June 2005, died tragically of blood loss subsequent to a perforated colon following sex with an Arabian stallion. Their approach to this sensational material is unusual: discreet, non-judgmental, poetic and highly aestheticised.
The film’s chromatic, beautifully-lit 16mm photography (by Sean Kirby) of stunning bowers of flowers, dusk-lit landscapes and darkened stables remind you of Robert Chappell’s work for premiere documentarist Errol Morris, but the filmmakers here aren’t interested in Morris’s rigorous, analytical and investigative approach.
Devor interviews three principal internet-connected zoophiles with intimate knowledge of the incident; but who you hear is not who you see. As baptist migrant Coyote (who appears) and stable labourer ‘H’ and truck-maintenance worker ‘The Happy Horseman’ (who don’t) relate in voice-over their stories and reflections on Mr Hands’ sad demise, silent actors re-enact often banal scenes from the interviewees’ lives. It’s a strategy which derives some virtue from practical restriction, but it also gives their film an aura of eerie dis-embodiment.
Whether this is intentional, part of a sly provocation, on the filmmakers’ part or a means to express their pure sense of wonder and disinterested moral curiosity, is frustratingly unclear. It’s an original approach, for sure, and an arresting film, but also a bewildering and finally unsatisfying one, which begs far more questions than can decently be – or are – answered.