Yes, But First You Will Have To Catch Him: White Mane (1953)

In only forty minutes, Albert Lamorisse manages to take control of nature from the Gods to create a stunning children's film about losing innocence and succumbing to a technologically induced death. White Mane is a black and white masterpiece that uses an oneiric grey world that causes viewers to lose their breath at moments of stunning cinematography that is only made the more sentimental by additional string based music.  In essence, White Mane makes a movie equally, if not more, gorgeous to the recent works of Pixar and other CGI-based film companies.  What is more impressive is that this occurred roughly forty years earlier.

White Mane follows the experiences of a young boy named Folco (Alain Emery) who longingly destines to tame a white horse, sharing the name of the film.  Folco, however, must do so with the constant ridicule of other adult cowboys who find White Mane to be a burden to capturing other wild horses.  The group goes to great lengths to prevent Folco from successfully capturing and training White Mane, using their whips and prods to separate the boy and his equine companion.  Ultimately, Folco, as any coming of age story does, realizes that he too must change his approach to life to assure his success.  He must acquiesce to nature's way in order to tame White Mane, and any attempts to reign him in with man made tools only result in the horses rebellion.  Folco becomes so devoted to existing as one with the horse that he literally rides off into the ocean with the horse, assuming that the child will die, the cowboys accept that their ways were harsh and beg the child to reconsider.  Unfortunately, their pleas are too late and they, like the viewer, are left to decide if they will choose to live in harmony with nature or continue to use force to rule the world, a force that inevitably results in unnecessary death and, more importantly, the removal of child hood innocence.

This film is stunning. I cannot emphasize that enough.  However, this film also portrays rather unconventional imagery in regards to familial relationships.  Folco appears to exist simultaneously as a parental and child figure.  He must take care of his ailing grandfather and his own sister, because the film never shows his parents, nor does it offer an explanation to their whereabouts. As a dual figure, Folco finds peace with White Mane who is also the leader of the band of wild horses.  White Mane too appears to have no elders.  I cannot help but think about this film in relation to other films that use animals or anthropomorphic beings as devices for maturation.  I plan to look at this in the future as it relates to more contemporary films with similar themes such as How to Train Your Dragon.  If you have any ideas on other films to include that would be very much appreciated.

With that being said, I am considering marketing for White Mane to be the first "required viewing" film in classrooms, because it is that good.

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