We all go through phases where sometimes we drag ourselves through the meandering monotony, whilst our attempts to gallop towards our ideal are often littered with obstacles. We become so confined and consumed by the lingering issues that our body language speaks for us rather than the ferocity of the spoken word.
Perhaps the precious dialogue of Vanida Karun’s riding instructor says it best. “Let the energy out and bring you in, or build it up and send you away”. Directed by Monika Treut (My Father Is Coming), Of Girls And Horses is a well-observed coming-of-age tale where the isolated albeit beautiful nature of a setting, may ultimately provide the clarity of thought and freedom we often crave.
Eager to search for her Brazil-based birth mother and bearing the scars of such abandon, Alex (Ceci Chuh) is a rebellious sixteen-year-old more concerned with filling her ears with booming beats and interacting with the technical wizardry of her mobile phone, than embracing the quiet of the German countryside. Forced upon her by her adoptive mother, the farm internship with Nina (Karun) is deemed a last-ditch effort to revive her flagging potential.
For Nina, Alex serves as an ideal company and distraction from the long-distance loneliness personally being suffered away from her beloved partner Christine (Ellen Grell), whose preference is the hustle and bustle of a fast-moving metropolitan lifestyle. The aspect of female companionship gradually becomes more prominent, when Alex initially feels threatened by the camaraderie shared by fellow new arrival Kathy (Alissa Wilms) and Nina, accentuating the struggle to connect with her temporary environment.
Conveying such a complexity of emotions through the understated subtlety of our central female trio’s figure movements and the clear passion instilled in its stylistics, director Monika Treut shows great restraint in not resorting to overblown melodramatics to drive its slender narrative.
The glacial pace occasionally threatens to undermine the emotional impact of the respective character trajectories, yet the film is always beautifully presented with its naturalistic aesthetic. Prompting technical comparisons with the bruising British brilliance of Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant, the exquisite extremity of the horses close-up and the tender displays of affection on show, merely emphasise Traut’s intentions. This is a story about reconnecting with a great passion and rediscovering a lust for life.
Impeccable mid-shots drawing themselves in as Treut captures the carefree, youthful enthusiasm of their blossoming bond overcoming their social differences, Ceci Chuh and Alissa Wilms’ Alex and Kathy build a potent and playful dynamic. Yet it is Chuh’s own complexity that truly impresses. Never quite at peace with herself, she possesses a compelling honesty as her once troubled mind-set slowly shifts and repairs, inevitably resonating with such a demographic.
Elsewhere, the heartache and power of Vanida Karun’s performance as Nina is encapsulated arguably in the film’s most poignant scene. Eyes closed. Parading around on her horse with a sense of complete trust. Ending distant, she admires the freedom of such a beloved creature, whilst silently mourning the seemingly helpless plight to be truly happy.
Slight and serene, Of Girls and Horses may not boast a great sense of urgency yet draws you in with its slyly stunning performances and the metaphorical poetry of its visuals.
Of Girls And Horses is available on DVD and VOD from July 27th