WHITE MANE (Albert Lamorisse, 1952)

Less than a decade after the Liberation, Albert Lamorisse made the bewitchingly symbolical Crin-Blanc, about the friendship between a child, Folco, and a wild horse, White Mane, part of a herd roaming the arid Camargue region in the Rhône Valley in South France. Blending documentary and fictional elements, it creates a haunting tragic parable about the price of freedom and the legacy of the collaborationists who assisted German occupation during the war. This stirring film owes something to Robert J. Flaherty’s Louisiana Story (1948) and traditions of the American Western.
     Seeking to bend Nature to their greed and exertion of power, the herdsmen who capture, lose and try to recapture White Mane, to prove they are the stronger, exemplify the fascistic tendency of a segment of humanity to “win” at Darwinian competition meant to shore up pointless, soulless existences. “The young fisherman,” as voiceover narration calls Folco, also tries capturing the horse after dreaming of harmony encapsulated in their joint reflection in shallow water as the boy, saddleless, rides his hoped-for companion. The horse is white; the boy is dressed all in white, the clinging fabric, often wet, like a second skin. Folco rips his shirt for a bandage when the horse’s leg is injured from a tussle with another horse that usurped White Mane’s place as leader of the herd. Boy and animal claim the same spiritual fabric; after giving the boy a good drag in retort to his attempt to overpower it, the horse befriends, trusts Folco. The herdsmen fail in their effort to recapture the animal and watch the pair disappear in the wild ocean. In long-shot the two proceed to some “wonderful place where men and horses live as friends forever.” They have passed into pure spirit—the Spirit of France.

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