Science fiction often comes with thoughts of flashy spaceships, evil aliens, and dazzling metropolises full of technology beyond our wildest dreams. But, what if science fiction was quiet, subtle, and breathtaking? What if it made tears roll down your cheeks with its beauty and portrayal of love? Director Nicholas Ashe Bateman takes those what-ifs and, in his directorial debut, constructs the complex world of THE WANTING MARE.
THE WANTING MARE is an epic of sorts, spanning multiple generations within the world of Anmaera as a line of women passes down the same haunting dream. This is a place that was once full of magic, but the world has changed. No longer is there magic; there is only heat, horses, and the desire for a ticket to leave the city of Whithren. The epic begins with the birth of Moira and the death of her mother as she whispers Moira’s fate into her ear. As Moira grows up, she is plagued by the dream and wants nothing more than to leave her small home outside of the big city. Then, she falls in love with Lawrence, a young man who steals tickets. The two begin a brief romance and the story follows the repercussions of their love, which involves a strange baby found on the rocks.
If this all sounds confusing, don’t worry, I understand. The world of THE WANTING MARE is gorgeous and vast, but at times feels like it is not totally realized. Bateman has so much story to tell but it cannot possibly fit into one film. This makes THE WANTING MARE feel overwhelming and difficult to follow. It is a film that needs a guidebook, one which I would happily purchase, that lets the viewer dive deeper into this world. Bateman wastes no time providing any context or specific information and instead has the viewer just experience this world. It’s as if Bateman decided that all the viewer needs to do is just sit, watch, and give yourself to his film. The more you give yourself, the more you become a part of Anmaere.
I do not mean to detract from this film’s beauty, though. While its story may seem too vast, you cannot stop looking at THE WANTING MARE. Its cinematography is both intimate and distant, giving the viewer a sense of the scale of this world while also portraying the love and passion between Moira and Lawrence. This fluctuation between intimacy and distance keeps the film grounded, particularly as the viewer watches characters lock eyes and fall in love. In those moments, there is nothing else to worry about but watching this love unfold. Then, the camera moves away and shows vast landscapes of barren rock or city streets that are empty of human life except for one character. This reminds the viewer that while we are watching one epic story unfold, it is all part of a larger universe. THE WANTING MARE strikes a delicate balance between closeness to its characters and awareness of their world that makes Anmaere feel so real.
As I’ve tried to somehow capture the awe I felt when watching THE WANTING MARE, you may be imagining a film with millions of dollars and a massive team who could help stitch such images together. However, THE WANTING MARE has humble beginnings. With $20,000 and a crew of ten, they set off filming across the country. Then, with a little more fundraising, the crew rented a warehouse in New Jersey. Then, they got to work on the visual effects. All of the effects were done by Bateman and his team over three years, as they learned and perfected their skills. THE WANTING MARE, a robust and contemplative film, is such a labor of love. You can feel the energy and care that was poured into this project; it emanates a vibrance that only comes with something that is so deeply loved.
This review feels more like a creative essay because there is no concrete way to discuss this movie. It is something that needs to be experienced because it is simply that: an experience. Bateman has constructed a place where I’d like to explore and get lost. I want to feel Anmaere’s sun beating down on my skin, I want to hear the distant whinnies of its horses, I want to feel the ocean spray on my face. THE WANTING MARE is sheer excellence and I cannot wait to wander into its world again.
Tags: Animals, Anmaere Pictures, Chattanooga Film Festival, Christine Kellogg-Darrin, Edmond Cofie, Horses, Jordan Monaghan, Josh Clark, Nicholas Ashe Bateman, science fiction, Shane Carruth, Yasamin Keshtkar