…we are of all people most to be pitied.
Peter Shaffer. He is the playwright who blessed the world with Amadeus. He also is the man that wrote about a boy who's deranged thoughts enveloped sex, an all-knowing--all-seeing god, and horses into one ginormous cluster of a lifestyle. This is the premise of Shaffer's Equus.
Add this to the list as well: Equus not only contains moments that undercut iconic images of the Son of God as classically depicted in art, but also continually alludes to a polytheistic universe. In part this is the whole mantra of the film; 'what is it like to be a pagan stuck in an unbelieving world?' The title itself, Equus, plays up this conflict, which apparently refers to the god of horses, hence where we get the word equestrian.
The film has the following elements: masochism, bestiality (in idea if not in form), infanticide (in a dream), polytheism, lots of full-frontal nudity (male and female), and the gauging out of eyeballs. It's quite the film.
Yet one thing I have failed yet to mention. The whole narrative is told to us by a psychologist. He is our grounded protagonist. We believe he is in control, and will help us, the unwitting audience, traverse these murky themes. This is where Shaffer reveals his Amadeus roots... for our great observer of human nature, our dear psychologist, loses his grounding as the story uncoils.
Our psychologist, Dr. Dysart, played by an aging Richard Burton, is trying to help a young boy, overcome his obsession with horses. This obsession is both sexual and totalitarian. The boy has blended his understanding of the Christian God with the image of the horse. The god-Equus, watches him always, demands his loyalty, and cannot be hidden from. Do not fear! Dr. Dysart is a skilled practitioner at his trade and he will heal the boy. The boy will, by story's end, become normal.
Our psychologist arrives at this conclusion: in the boy's abnormal obsession, he was a part of something far beyond the world of the normal. He felt things that the good doctor had never felt. The boy experienced existence on a plane of reality unknown to mere man. And the doc broke this in the boy.
This is a Fantastic Idea! YES! I endorse such notions.
If there is nothing more than the normal world, than it is far greater to be crazy than to be sane. This is Dr. Dysart's great lamentation. This is the Gospel. This is truth.
The words of Paul, in his 1st letter to the Corinthians, Verses 16-19, Chapter 15
For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied."