Directed by: Monika Treut
Starring: Ceci Schmitz-Chuh, Alissa Wilms, Vanida Karun
Having dedicated the best part of her career to the documentary form, distinguished German writer/director Monika Treut returns to the world of fictional filmmaking with this characteristically soft and sweeping study of adolescent angst and lesbian love.
Of Girls and Horses follows Alex (Ceci Schmitz-Chuh), a teenage misfit and high-school dropout who is sent to work as an intern at a horse ranch in the German countryside. Put to work helping out riding instructor Nina (Vanida Karun), Alex initially resents spending time on the farm. Soon, however, she meets Kathy (Alissa Wilms), a shy girl of similar age, who ignites intoxicating feelings within Alex that slowly spin her out of control.
Shot against striking landscapes, Treut’s film moves at more of a slow trot than a fast gallop. Cinematographer Birgit Möller’s crisp panoramic photography is blissfully beautiful to behold. The healing and freeing power found in nature is an underlying theme throughout, which Treut amplifies through her DP’s lingering idyllic imagery.Even though it only runs for a brisk 80 odd minutes, the measured pace is a persistent problem. As are the muted performances of the lead actors (particularly Ceci Schmitz-Chuh), which, despite an organic air, each struggle to express themselves emotionally. Only Vanida Karun manages to truly make an impact; through Nina’s detached romance with her partner Christine (Ellen Grell), Treut draws on ideas explored with much greater clarity in Ira Sach’s sublime Love Is Strange, and poignantly laments on the loneliness that can come from being in a long-distance relationship.
Despite its imperfections, it is impossible not to be swept up in the subtle visual splendour of Treut’s film though; the curative force of the vast rolling fields drifting over the viewer as it does the characters, like a lush, gentle breeze.