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{Chattanooga Film Fest} The Wanting Mare Review- A Magical Place And A Magical Movie

Confounding and beautiful The Wanting Mare is a heartwrenching story of love, loneliness, loss, and the magic that keeps us going.

The Wanting Mare argues hope is a fickle thing. Even as fate conspires against it to subvert love, fate always finds a way. Despair and want are the enemies of hope. If love and happiness are the sword and shield by which hope fights, despair, and want are the dual foes it fights. Chattanooga Film Fest was lucky enough to screen the premiere of this heartbreaking film about contentment, heartbreak, and the magical world that has so much to teach us. It is just what the world needs right now.

The Wanting Mare is like if Cloud Atlas and Vivarium had a baby. It is hopeful and hopeless in equal measures. The combination makes for one of the most profound experiences. The film written and directed by Nicholas Ashe Bateman is tremendously ambitious. It is hard to convey the kind of nebulous melancholy throughout this movie without ever descending into navel-gazing. Bateman manages to weave together a fantastic journey from a bleak but stunning starting point to an unknowable illusion with poignant glances, desperate circumstances, and buckets of sweat. Like LOTS of sweat.

The film opens with the legend of the Wanting Mare. In this world, there is only freezing cold and the one last hot place on Earth. Withren is a hidden island where horses thrive. Once a year they are taken by ship to the “frozen place”. Those people lucky enough to get a ticket aboard the ship can go as well. Those tickets are all but impossible to get, however. It’s never explained what happened or why anyone would want to go to the frozen place but suffice it to say the unbearable heat of the island may be a catalyst.

Just North Of The City Of Withren. Hidden In The Heat, Wild Horses Run Along The Coast. Once A Year They Are Trapped And Exported To The Southern Tip Of Levithen; To A City Of Constant Winter. There Are Tickets For Passage Aboard This Yearly Transport Ship, But They Are A Rare Commodity.

The Wanting Mare

Levithen is shown only once at the very end and it is a desolate place. Covered in snow it chills just to see it. Withren is a sweaty, dirty place filled with decrepit buildings next to idyllic seaside cottages sitting atop gorgeous cliffs. Overhead shots show a glittering fantasy that looks like an animal flayed and left to bleed into the earth. Both brutal and beautiful it is hard to imagine why one would want to leave the island for the frozen tundra. Is it the promise of opportunity? To find love? Is it to escape their past or the oppressive heat? Is it simply a chance to chase something other than what they have always known? Those are the big questions in the thought-provoking The Wanting Mare.

This movie teems with emotion. It is about things unsaid and felt instead of displayed. Dialogue is sparse. The story is propelled along by feeling and music rather than exposition. Many movies and television series could learn a thing or two from Bateman who shows more with imagery than words in almost every occasion. The set which was modeled and shot in miniature feels familiar and yet otherworldly. Reminiscent of Brazil or Greece there are old-world touches mixed with modern technology. This is a world beyond time or history. Phones and electricity exist but it feels like another era. There is one particularly gorgeous shot of what appears to be a weathered statue of some sort of mythological god. Another really effective scene makes, insects and birds look like fairies. The place is as much part of the story as the people who live there.

A young woman Moira lives a lonely life. She has dreams every night of a better world. Those dreams burn with intensity and allure. Every woman in her family line has this same dream. Her mother told her it is a memory of the world before all of this. When time and the sea were free. This recurring dream and her mother’s words shape this young woman and make her the wistful and lonely person she becomes. All of that changes when a young man gets shot and she nurses him back to health. Along with her love for him, her desire to leave the island grows.

Performances by Yasamin Keshtkar as Eirah, and Jordan Monaghan as younger Moira are spectacular. Keshtkar is serious and hardened while Monaghan is so consumed by sadness it is hard to watch her. Soulful performances by Edmond Coffie (Hadeon) and Josh Clark (Lawrence) deliver guilt and regret in buckets.

Music plays a vital role in The Wanting Mare. Aaron Boudreaux and Landon Williams developed music that is the heartsong of this magical place. Strong female vocals with interesting disco upbeats and soul elements create a sound distinctive to Withren. The music feels like it grew from the fabric of the city. A strange mix of eras and specific technologies.

Several different timelines show Moira’s fate. Some of it is painful, some maddening, and others just breath-taking. So much of what happens is lost to time. Stuck in an endless loop of love and loss, need and acceptance, redemption and guilt, all the main players circle each other. Each character is a piece of the one before. Scars appear on shoulders before events even happen and foreshadow things that will transpire. The dead are consumed by horses and then turn to ash. Just as the dreams burn so do the dead only to be reborn again. The only release from this perpetual cycle seems to be dancing.

In Withren you are a product of your past and present selves. Mistakes made in the past are repeated over and over again in different bodies. Loves that are lost, betrayals, and selfish acts of cowardice happen again and again. Wounds literally replicate on seemingly different people and places because time is not constant here. Age and color mean nothing in Witherin. People can coexist with their own selves as if interacting with their own ghosts. It’s confusing and sorrowful, but maybe that’s the point.