Animals strike curious poses in Robinson Devor’s lush doc on the love that dare not speak its mane. As he did in his last feature, Police Beat, Devor uses the verdant Pacific Northwest to make the unimaginable—here, a Boeing executive’s death from a perforated colon after having sex with a horse—seem dreamlike and, at times, astonishingly beautiful. Those who cluck that the director has aestheticized the unspeakable, refusing to take a moral stand, may wish to consider that sometimes just presenting the minutiae is provocative enough: “Several buckets full of videotapes of men having sex with Arabian stallions were found,” announces an intertitle at the beginning of Zoo. Buckets full of videotapes: I have yet to hear a more evocative expression in a movie this year.
The zoophiles, or zoos, who convened in Enumclaw, Washington, were mostly white men who praised the Internet for bringing them together. They speak of a utopian existence—“pretty much a classless society,” one subject states—of mixed drinks, communal dinners and horseplay. “Nothing sexual ever happened until I gained their trust and they gained mine,” says one zoo of his animal friends—a common enough averment from pedophiles (see 1994’s Chicken Hawk). Is it a deluded, pathological statement or an accurate assessment? The zoos find an unwitting ally in Rush Limbaugh, heard in an audio clip gasping, “How in the world can this happen without consent?” Even Jenny Edwards, the animal rescuer who intervened on the stallion’s behalf, admits of zoophilia, “I’m right at the beginning of being able to understand it.” Can we?