Equus is the Latin word for horse. A young boy, Alan Strang, blinds seven horses and is brought to Dr. Dysart for treatment. The boy at first only sings commercial jingles such as: "Double your flavor, double your fun, with double mint, double mint, double mint gum." Through his concern, his creative challenging of the boy, and a variety of therapeutic tricks including hypnosis, Dr. Dysart is able to help Alan.
However, in the process, he questions his own life. Dr. Dysart has dreams in which he is a Priest in Homeric Greece, wearing a mask, and along with his assistants he is sacrificing your boys, some 500 of them in a long line. The boys are placed on a stone and he cuts them open and throws their entrails on the floor and the other priests study the pattern they make as they land on the floor. What he fears in the dream is that the other priests will realize that he is beginning to doubt the value of these sacrifices and if they discover that, then he will be the next one over the stone to be sacrificed.
He learns that Alan has developed a powerful, sensual relationship with the horses. One in which the horses are his gods. Just think how it might effect you if the gods you worshipped you were one with, that you brushed them, fed them, kissed them, rode them in the night. These are gods that are ever present, ever watching his every movement.
When he tries to make love with Jill, her hair is the horse's mane, her skin is their hide. In response, Alan attacks the horses and blinds them. Seen in this context, his bizarre and horrible crime is an effort to regain his balance, to move away from the powerful world of his fantasies and return to the normal world.
However, Dr. Dysart questions whether the normal world is all that great a place for Alan to return to. This in part is the question raised by Kevin in Trapped in Silence, Alan's family is in some ways comparable to Conrad's family in Ordinary People. As Dysart states, being normal both sustains and kills.
The metamessage of Equus is that we all must engage in the struggle of life, the struggle to be neither "normal" nor "crazy"---if normal means that you are not in touch with your emotions and crazy means that you are overwhelmed by them; then your task in life is to find a middle point, a balance where you enjoy a wondrous sensual existence while at the same time you live a reasonably structured existence.
One student in a recent paper wrote: "Bring to the game of life a raincoat, a good set of tools, the sense to know when it's time to call it a day, and the faith that there are new and exciting things ahead" (C.T.) Both Dr. Dysart and Alan failed to bring these to the game of life.
Other quotes by C.T. include: "An important function of art is to put people in places they didn't want to go." Dr. Dysart did not want to face how his life was barren, he did not want to go there, but Alan makes him examine his life. Hopefully, after this experience he will make a commitment to change.
"The most powerful and important thing that art does is help us (and often force us) to empathize with all sorts of people. We enter into their lives and situations, thoughts and conversations, and find common bonds" (C.T.)
This movie is not pleasant at times. But, hopefully, we will use it as an opportunity to understand more about life, our life and the lives of others are illuminated by this movie.
That is the challenge of the Queen of Trash (Vanessa Williams) in the movie Elmo in Grouchland. It is all about your point of view. We all have a choice as to the attitude we take toward the world as we see it. Each of us, every moment of every day, are making decisions, choices about our attitude, choices about who we reach out to and who we ignore, choices about how to deal with life and the inevitable pain that goes along with living. From the movie Message in the Bottle we see that we can elect to retreat or to move ahead. Each of us, both literally and metaphorically, need to ask three questions about writing a message in a bottle, about communicating something important to another human being:
· Who would you write the message to?
· What would you say?
· Why don't you do it?
We need to stop being silent. We need to write those messages and see that they are delivered---delivered to parents and siblings, delivered to significant others, delivered to ourselves.
Stop reading, start writing!