Reviewed in the United States on May 17, 2020
This film is basically about TRAUMA, and in one way or another, every character demonstrates some indication of having experienced it. The main character, Zeke, was played to perfection and the role demonstrated the effect of trauma, one way a person compensated for that trauma, and then the further trauma of being discovered to have been engaging in a behavior to cope with trauma that was humiliating and utterly marginalizing. I understand how people can find themselves triggered by the film, but I agree with one of the other reviewers that to take the film at face value seems, to me also, to be missing the point. The film worked very well for me. The characters were played so well and, for me, so sympathetically, that I wanted to continue to get to know them, to understand them, and to learn more about their stories. I wanted to help them. The film was, I think, a commentary on how much of what is right in front of people tends to be avoided, and that all of us hide our most personal desires, our most vulnerable and embarrassing psychological parts from virtually everyone, because it doesn't feel even remotely safe to do otherwise. So, we live double lives in one way or another, although usually not in exactly the same way. We each find our own way to do it, but we all do it, generally speaking, in my opinion, to one extent or another. My own way of entering into the story (SPOILERS TO FOLLOW!) is the idea that the three friends, Zeke, Earl, and Dick, loved one another, and felt the closest to each other out of all of the adult relationships they had available to them. How to express intimacy, love, and vulnerability toward one another? The situation of some kind of shared, utterly taboo object of common desire allowed them to share a private world together, cut off (dissociated) from the rest of their lives, and that dissociation was enhanced by alcohol and drugs. and also by their identification with one another as the distinct entity of a "band" - aptly named "Pink Freud." But the object of their intimate emotional and sexual desire - one they could share in together - felt less dangerous than sharing their need for intimacy with one another as the objects of those desires. So this need for one another was transferred onto the animal, and became a template for their desire for one another, though they were not actually "homosexual," as such. The need for companionship and love, and for intimacy, transcended the area of sexual orientation, but was still hampered by it. It felt safer to share the animal, because at least they weren't "gay." To have feelings for one another felt even more taboo than having feelings for a horse. That was the irony. The horse was safer emotionally. To question their emotional and even sexual interest for one another would be more frightening to their sense of identity, even though, as I mentioned, in my opinion, from what was depicted I would say the film maker was indicating that they were not, actually, gay. But, as Freud pointed out, all people have bisexual potential, from birth, and this continues through the lifespan. The film makers, in choosing an animal, deliberately transcended the circumscribed areas of sexual identity labels, and went instead for the real issue, which is the co-existing desperation for intimate connection, and the terrorizing threat of exposure and vulnerability this brings with it in human relationships. This is the focal point, dramatized so starkly, that the audience is invited to identify with, each of us in our own way. Or not, if we prefer not to "go there" ourselves. If we won't, we won't feel anything but disgust. Otherwise, we may feel embarrassed and revealed, but we will also be able to feel compassionate. Much like Christ and the woman caught in the act of adultery, and each of us being asked if we can justify throwing the first stone. This was the point, I think, of the shots of the church slogans around town. So, getting drunk together and having a focus for their secret selves, which they made into their own world together, symbolizes very dramatically what is otherwise comprised of the variety of ways that people use substitutions to get their needs "met," in ways that don't fulfill those desires truly. This leads to a disordered life, lies, addiction, terror, pain. Whether it involves bestiality, or any of the ways that people act out the same pattern, but in less socially horrifying ways. But, think about how different that same town would have been only 50 years ago, as far as how many of the same people and situations that were depicted as "normal" would have raised the same ire and disgust as having sex with a horse does today. Interracial relationships. Lesbian marriages. Divorces (not depicted, but likely to be the result of the situation). Some people get a "pass," others are demonized for how they try - desperately- to get their needs met. Needs they often can't adequately explain to themselves, or to anyone else. They are as much victim to those imposing needs as are those who are impacted by their secret activities. I think this was the point the film makers were trying to make. The film was so well crafted, and so well directed, in my opinion. I don't think they would have put that much into it if they were trying for cheap ways of upsetting an audience, or just trying to make a joke out of a strange situation (bestiality), which does continue to occur, and which is probably more widespread than is commonly recognized. That's not meant as an endorsement of the behavior, just meant to point out that real people find themselves in situations that would be just as devastating, and it's easier to think of "us" as the "good" people and "them" (whoever they are) as the perverts. We're all in glass houses, and our lack of compassion usually demonstrates how little we take account of the fact. Which also calls for compassion. I don't think the film tried to demonize anyone. Just showing people as we are, thinking we're on one side of the fence or the other. No doubt, some behaviors may be objectively more disordered than others - but the real point of the film I think is how much of ourselves do we dare see in the desperation and dysfunction and needfulness and mental density presented, or at least with the self-satisfaction and self-righteousness also visible in the cast of characters depicted in the film. Anyway, if you can brace yourself for the topic matter, I think it's a valuable and very well made product.