The Wanting Mare Movie Explained and Discussed

Explaining the Wanting Mare Will Break Your Mind

Explaining the Wanting Mare Will Break Your Mind - because this might just be the Indie breakout of the year, if only it can get distributed.
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Explaining How the Wanting Mare Will Break Your Mind. Just the other day I told you about the Chattanooga Film Festival running this weekend – and with it come a number of wild movies…the chief of which is The Wanting Mare. And until 2021, you couldn’t watch The Wanting Mare outside of film festivals. Interested in watching the Wanting Mare? The are plenty of places you can watch it now:

The Wanting Mare is being promoted by none other than Shane Carruth as the Executive Producer.If you aren’t aware of who Shane Carruth is, there is #1 Primer, & #2 Upstream Color as two of the greatest movies of all time. Since Upstream Color, Mr. Carruth has just hit wall after wall within the traditional Hollywood world of film-making. I had assumed that he was going to be the next Christopher Nolan and that we would get a good stream of films coming from him for the foreseeable future. Carruth had a recent interview with Indiewire that really opened my eyes to how he sees the Hollywood industry… you have got to take a look at it and read his thoughts.

I am not in the same business as Hollywood. This is not arts and literature in early Greece. This town is what everybody says it is. We hire models to say words they don’t even understand and then light them well. Only one percent of that is worth watching. The confusion is, we get to go to the same building to watch a fucking “Garfield” cartoon and “Phantom Thread,” as if those two are the same things. When I go to a vending machine, there’s a Snickers bar and a bag of Chex Mix. These are the same things. OK, one is savory and one is sugary. But they’re still food I can put in my mouth. We go to the theater and act like they’re all the same thing, and they’re just not. One is meant to be there so you can make out with your date on a Friday night, and the other is there so you can be edified for the next 30 years. We just pretend they’re the same.

And yet, this isn’t Carruth’s movie – but, if his involvement got all of us to go and see The Wanting Mare, then thank God he’s involved, because The Wanting Mare is it’s own Primer, or Upstream Color – a movie that will readjust the way in which we feel the emotions and experiences that are possible inside the world of cinematography. I mean, look at this monster right here – I mean? What is this thing? It’s unbelievable. And what’s really amazing is, this trailer is about as comprehensive as the movie itself is. It answers just as many questions as the movie does. This film is basically a motion picture poem. It’s beautiful, and extravagant, and mindblowingly confusing.

The Wanting Mare hasn’t found a distributor yet. So there is no schedule, and no plan as of yet for this film to find its legs. What that means is, if you don’t watch this movie this weekend, you are going to be missing out for the foreseeable. OK? $10 bucks and you can get a day pass, and access to like 10 to 20 movies…including The Wanting Mare. Alright, from here on out, I’m diving way deep into the inner workings of what happens in this film so that we can talk about it.

The Wanting Mare Walkthrough

Let’s open with the official description that Nicholas Ashe wrote about his film: “In the world of Anmaere, north of the city of Whithren, wild horses run through the moorlands and up the coast. These horses are the city’s most valuable export, and as a result are hunted, trapped, sold & shipped across the sea once a year. For those in Whithren, this trade creates lucrative and exciting possibilities: the chance to escape their constantly sweltering city to head to the Western continent of Levithen, or just to begin again. Meanwhile, in a small house just north of the city, a young woman dies in childbirth. Her last words are an attempt to tell her daughter of the life she will have and her inheritance of a recurring dream that must be kept secret; for it contains the memories of another age long before us, one where magic and myth were alive in the world.”

Got it? We are in the world of Anmaere. And the city of Whithren. (Catch that? The world that is withering?) That is where our story – our world – is based.

Moira (played by Christine Kellogg-Darrin), the daughter of a woman – and a line of women – who are all plagued with dreams of the world before, finds a man, named Lawrence (the younger I believe is played by an un-credited Nicolas Ashe? – can someone confirm? and the elder Lawrence is played by Josh Clark), who has been shot. His guys have been hunting for a ticket, actively, and they had just made a play that seemed to go all wrong. Compassionately, Moira saves Lawrence’s life, and Moira hides Lawrence in exchange for a ticket. But then one day, Lawrence tells Moira that she should meet him tomorrow in the city, and then they’ll go together. He gathers his men, and goes after the ticket that he saw the last time. And, though his men are hurt, he manages to get it. After the attack is over, his lead man tells him that he had a dream that he had a little girl, and the two of them were playing in the snow.

Cut to Moira, waiting at the ship’s departure, for Lawrence to appear. And instead of arriving with the ticket for Moira – in a nearly indecipherable segment – Lawrence finds (or dreams to find??) a baby by the shore. Not knowing what else to do, he brings the child to Moira – who definitely doesn’t want a baby. But where else is the child going to go? Which means that they’d now need three priceless tickets to the magical world of Levithen! Impossible. Utterly beyond the pale. Were you watching the piles of cash they were exchanging for a single ticket? And when Lawrence leaves, he’s gone for a very, very long time. And in the meantime, Moira raises the baby as her daughter, Eirah…as well as having another girl. The Sister, played by Maxine Muster.

Fast forward thirty some years, and the film introduces us to another mob boss type – similar to Lawrence – named Hadeon. Hadeon has just stolen a ticket from someone, and is going to sell it. Eirah, who has a horse that is hurt, which puts her in serious danger, and Hadeon offers to help her take care of the horse. Eirah tells him, if one morning, she doesn’t come, to call this number – and the person on the line will come take care of it. (The number happens to be for her adoptive mother, Moira.) But she has an effect on him. She makes him want to be good. And so he refuses to sell one of the tickets, gives her a ticket, and hands her a pile of money. But she leaves it, and tells him that she has “no use for the winter.” After telling him her story though – her story of being found by the docks, and her mother who sees the land before in her dreams – she says that she’ll go if he goes with her. And while she sleeps, Hadeon writes her name on the ticket and leaves it for her.

Explaining the Wanting Mare Will Break Your Mind - because this might just be the Indie breakout of the year, if only it can get distributed.

Jump forward a year. The night the ship was going to leave. And there, Eirah is dying on the ground. Her house standing above her. We can only assume that someone has stolen her ticket, shot her, and left her for dead. Eirah’s sister finds her, and hauls her to a now elder Lawrence who tries to save her life. But can’t. She dies. Lawrence reveals to the sister that he used to know her mother and that she was magical. There is a scene, where Eirah’s horse is eating her…which, seems incredibly important, maybe allegorical? I don’t know. Regardless, Lawrence takes his shotgun, heads into town in order to find the one who was going with Eirah. But he is shot up as well. Lawrence accuses Hadeon of killing Eirah, but Hadeon obviously didn’t know that she was dead, and was crushed at the knowledge.

With that, Hadeon goes to the docks and gets passage. And while on the ship, he calls the number that Eirah had given him a year before…Moira’s number. And Moira, mistakenly assumes that it was Eirah on the ship, heading to a better life…even though she didn’t say anything.

Now, Lawrence, heads out to Moira’s place to see her after decades of being away. Lawrence takes Moira in to Whithren and he tells her of seeing Eirah dancing a month before. And he told her where he lived. Which explains how Eirah’s sister knew where to take her after she had been shot. Moira and Lawrence spend time catching up – and then Lawrence tells her that he actually did have a ticket for her. And he tried to get another ticket so that the both of them could go – but apparently he couldn’t get another one. “And now I’ve lost you both.”

To which, Moira responds, “You didn’t lose her, she got across. She called me from the ship…”

Moira and Lawrence spend the evening together, and Lawrence tells her to keep the shirt. There, in the pocket, he’d left a ticket. But, after she finds it, she burns it. Not wanting to leave her daughter, this place, these things, behind. Moira and her daughter sit together, and she asks if Lawrence had told her…told her what she asks? Told me what? Nothing. With that, Moira is kept from knowing about Eirah’s death. Hadeon on the other hand, makes it across the sea, and arrives in the arctic cold of Levithen. Where he watches as the horse is released out into the wild, and the snow.

The Wanting Mare Explained

OK, so I lied. There is no way that I, a humble viewer like yourself, will be able to “explain” The Wanting Mare to you. As Shane Carruth said, in the quote above, this is the sort of movie that is worth spending the next thirty years thinking about. But, there are some themes and motifs here that sort of seem to be more obvious than others.

First, there is that constant heat. There in Whithren, the heat never subsides. No seasons, just constant sweat, and oppressive heat. Which, just isn’t a thing. But, is a marvelous stand in for pain, sin, and our craven fallen nature. Think about it, all the men in this movie are literal gangsters. They are running hustles, they are running violent games. And this world just assumes that that is normal. They do what they have to do to stay alive in this inhospitable world. And that could just be a stand in for our fallen nature – our depraved state. Which makes more sense when you begin to think about the one thought that unifies this entire movie, which is the yearning for something else. All of the characters fantasize, dream, and desire to get out of Whithren and make it across the sea to the mythological world of Levithen. A place so utterly different from Whithren as to be almost a dream. So if Whithren is our fallen life in this world, then Levithen is this hope and desire to make it to the land across the sea – or heaven. OK, maybe it’s not talking literally about heaven. But more specifically about arriving home.

Hrm, maybe it would help if we talked about that title:

want·ing/ˈwän(t)iNG/: adjective – lacking in a certain required or necessary quality.

mare1/mer/: noun – the female of a horse or other equine animal.

I believe that the movie, The Wanting Mare is a technicolor poem, mainly meant to effuse feeling and meaning from its pores. This isn’t a film like Top Gun 2, with narrative, and structural scaffolding to provide a way forward. It is much more abstract than all of that. And even the narrative I walked you through up above, I had to work really hard to assemble through two distinctly different viewings.

So, back to the title, The Wanting Mare. I think there are a couple things going on here. First, there happens to be a horse that takes up a central portion of the movie. It could be referring to that horse. Maybe? It could be saying, there is this female horse that is desperate for something. Desperate for crossing over. Ascending. I mean? It COULD be about that, I suppose. But it’s more likely that the horse itself is something of a metaphor for the women in this movie. I mean, why is the horse a mare? It’s specifically a female horse for a reason. Horses are spiritual animals, strong, graceful, and ascendant. Which, is what we can say about this line of women who are tapping into something deeper, something more primarily visceral by dreaming this painful and horrible dream that repeats night after night.

Explaining the Wanting Mare Will Break Your Mind

And what is that dream about? Seems that it is really important, even though we really aren’t given much to go on. About all we know about it is what the women tell us directly:

Moira – “Do you wonder what was before?”

Lawrence – “Before when?”

Moira – “Before here.”

Lawrence – “Not really.”

Moira – “There was magic. I have a dream every night, it was a picture of the world as it was. But it’s terrible., and it burns and fills me every night. And I can’t sleep.”

Then thirty-five some years later – Moira and Lawrence reunite and talk again about the dream.

Lawrence – “You said it burned, the dream.”

Moira – “It does. In that time, before, there’s a possibility for it to not be like this.”

About this last line – it is really unclear what she said. THIS SICKNESS, might have been just as easily just this, or just sickness. The Chattanooga Film Festival didn’t provide closed captioning for the film, so while I listened to this line no less than 15 times, I’m still uncertain as to what she was saying. But maybe there is beauty in this ambiguity. This? Sickness? This Sickness? Hell, thickness? hahaha. I’m one of those people that believe that films should be studied, not popcorned. And I definitely did my best here. But I’m not 100% certain.

And then, as the movie is ending, and the horse is getting released from the container, off of the ship, I believe it is Moira that says to her daughter:

“Can you see it now, the past? It’s there, in your dream. A whole world buried under us. When we were there it was alive. The sea could think and change. Time could move as it wished. All of its great stories and adventures. Each love and loss, is with you. Let the dream grow in you. Let it reform. In time, it’ll come out.

So we know that in the world of Anmaere, the old magic has died. But there are remnants of it still percolating, and echoing all about. And we see this magic in the horses. We see this magic in these women who dream. Better yet, these women dream of a world that is possible for us today, but is lost to us. Because why? Because we have fallen.

What was the original sin of this movie? No. I’m not giving it to you. Stop. And think back over this movie. Someone took an apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. But who?

It was Moira. One of the only rules stated in the movie was that the women who share the dream every night are not to tell of the dream. And what does she do? She saves Lawrence, and then tells him about it. What befell Adam and Eve after they sinned? They were forced from the garden, to work the land and toil, to subdue the earth, and then, the most tragic consequence, was that they were appointed to die.

So, if you see Levithen as a metaphor for heaven – and her mistake of telling Lawrence about the dream as a sin – then you can see that she can never board that ship. It isn’t her place. Lawrence could give her a hundred tickets. And yet, she’d never be allowed to cross over. Wait, WHAT? If all that is true, then why the hell was Hadeon allowed to cross over? Hrmmm. Astute question random web visitor. Well, we know he is something of a horrible gangster in the world of Whithren. We watch him steal a ticket from an old man. I think he steals it anyway. But Hadeon mentions to Lawrence that “For her [Eirah] I was good.” Maybe Hadeon found some sort of redemption in the love that he shared for Eirah. But we also know that he really didn’t make it to Levithen – why? because Lawrence told him he was going to bleed out. He wasn’t going to live. So, while he was allowed to see the shores of Levithen, he wasn’t really allowed to go. And it was only Eirah’s horse that actually made it there.

The Wanting Mare sort of reminds me of this T.S. Eliot quote: “With the disappearance of the idea of Original Sin, with the disappearance of the idea of intense moral struggle, the human beings presented to us both in poetry and prose fiction today, and more patently among serious writers than in the underworld of letters, tend to become less and less real… If you do away with this struggle, and maintain that by tolerance, benevolence, inoffensiveness, and a redistribution or increase of purchasing power, combined with a devotion, on the part of the elite, to Art, the world will be as good as anyone could require, then you must expect human beings to become more and more vaporous.” Woah. I could spend 2k words on this quote alone, but the long and short of it is that Eliot believed that our fictional characters that didn’t struggle with the idea of the Original Sin became less, real, and less profound. Wanting Mare supports this argument by grounding these characters dramatically deeply to the idea of this Original Sin concept. They are all struggling in their own ways. Each one having failed – each one mired by life.

But it is Moira that we can see the effects of most specifically. After being straddled with her adopted daughter (which, sort of was conceived out of the dream of her union with Lawrence) she tells Lawrence that Eirah connected directly with her darkest and worst parts…and her best. Which, all of us parents can relate to. I remember one particularly bad night with my second child. He refused to be held by me at 2 am, which meant I never could help my wife – who wasn’t handling the sleep deprivation particularly well after more than a year. I was determined to get Ashton to let me hold him and calm him down. So he and I entered the Apocalypse Now walk in closet, and it might as well have been directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Let’s just say, it didn’t go well. And the me that was in that closet, is literally the worst me I’ve ever been. Oh, Ashton had no idea, but wow did that experience just ignite the vile evil in my heart.

Explaining the Wanting Mare Will Break Your Mind

Final Thoughts on The Wanting Mare

So, what do you think? Now that we are done with how Explaining the Wanting Mare Will Break Your Mind – do you think it was worth our time. I haven’t been moved by a movie this much in a long time. I already promise you that this movie will be in my top five movies of the year. Hopefully it’ll get distribution by then! But as I think back on it – it really was Moira’s story. I really do think she is our wanting mare. And yet, it doesn’t matter who it is. They are all desiring the land across the sea. The repose of forgiveness and the peace of grace.

It’s absolutely unbelievable that Nicholas Ashe created this film in a warehouse, and with a copy of Blender on his Mac. This movie is literally what this blog is all about. I didn’t start it to talk about Hollywood’s latest makeout, popcorn movie. If this isn’t a movie that will make you THiNC. I don’t know what is.

Edited by: CY