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Sidney Lumet's adaptation of the Peter Shaffer's stage play EQUUS is exceptional for its ability to transport to film the full emotional complexity and intensity of a psychiatrist's relationship with one of his patients. And this is done almost entirely through the skill of the actors: Richard Burton as the psychiatrist Dr. Martin Dysart, Peter Firth as the disturbed stable boy who inexplicably blinded several of the horses in his care, Colin Blakely and Joan Plowright as the boy's religiously incompatible parents, and Eileen Atkins as a judge who has asked Dr. Dysart to take on this challenging case. This is not to minimize other contributions--the cinematography is exceedingly intelligent and unobtrusive. It's simply to say that Lumet seems to have realized that he had assembled a dream cast and made every effort to stay out of their way and to let each actor shine. Burton's performance is perhaps the best of his film career. Though intense at times, he is completely devoid of the stagey "haminess" that has marred some of his other film performances. Firth, as the patient, moves easily from jingle-singing dissociated boy, to surly rebellious youth, to a sort of highly eroticized mythic being. It is truly fascinating to watch.Read more ›
The story is as strong as in the stage play: a burned-out psychiatrist (Richard Burton) takes on the case of a stable-boy (Peter Firth) who has blinded six of the horses in his care, and through his treatment of the boy, further exacerbating the psychiatrist's sense of detachment from the primitive side of his personality --a side he longs to be reunited with. In the process, we see how the twisted interrelation between sex, religion, guilt, parental love (or the absence thereof) and idolization (in most of its forms) combine to motivate an otherwise good teenager to commit such an act of cruelty.
The acting is absolutely flawless. Burton gives what may be the best performance of his career (and one which was inexplicably denied the Oscar) as the psychiatrist; Firth is his match as the inscrutable stable boy; and Jenny Agutter is superb as the young woman who unwittingly sets the final steps of the story in motion.
As for the complaints about the "staginess" of the film, Sidney Lumet's direction does a marvelous job at highlighting the contrasting personalities of Burton's and Firth's characters -- Burton's monologues shot in extreme close-up, highlighting the claustrophobic isolation into which his character has retreated; Firth, by contrast, given more leeway with the camera, only mirroring Burton's claustrophobia in those scenes in which his Freudian/religious guilt imposes itself upon him.
In short, Peter Shaffer's play is astounding material and it clearly survives its transition to film. Not a happy film, by any means, but certainly a brilliant one.
As the ongoing therapy with Alan reaches its climax Dr. Dysart finally comes face to face with the young mans' inner passion and divine obsession. An encounter which challenges Dysart to finally look into his own soul and confront his personal demons and loss of passion. As though peering into a mirror darkly it eventually becomes a case of "Physican Heal Thyself."
Truly one of the darkest, most penetrating journeys into a troubled mind you will ever view. Peter Shaffer's masterful screenplay along with director Sidney Lumet performing at the top of his craft have brought to life a harrowing vision not soon to be forgotten.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Equus is very well-acted, well-directed, and well-written. I feel as though I should be rating it higher. But it is also a very British film and very much a product of its time. Read morePublished 10 months ago by rbrogan3
Radical 1970's therapy looks much more radical in the 2010's. Video was crisp and explicit. Can't remember the audio. Read morePublished 15 months ago by RAMfreeCPU
BURTON SUPERB. OUR GREATEST ACTOR IN A SUPERB ROLE.
PERHAPS THE BEST SOLILOQUY SINCE HAMLET' S TO BE OR NOT TO BE.