It took filmmaker and digital effects maestro Nicholas Ashe Bateman five years to create the fantastical world of Anmaere, in which his debut feature, The Wanting Mare, is set. He also did it all almost entirely within the confines of a New Jersey warehouse. The dream-like, poetic result is an astonishing visual achievement, an example of what an artist lacking a Hollywood budget can conjure with sheer ingenuity. That said, some may find its impenetrable narrative and purposefully distancing nature irritating. There’s only so long one can stare at an abstract painting.
“…discovers a baby by the shore, which is followed by an intense, violent showdown…”
It all starts off compellingly enough. Once a year, the title card informs us, wild horses are brought across the ocean from the (post-apocalyptic? alien? fantasy? New Jersey?), boiling-hot city of Whithren to the wintry Levithen. The tickets for this annual journey are highly coveted and extremely rare. One of the folks who desperately wants a ticket is Moira (Jordan Monaghan). She dreams of Levithen, just like her mother used to, before dying during childbirth (it’s a dream that’s passed on through generations… or something). When she helps out the wounded thug Lawrence (Bateman), she promises to keep him safe in exchange for the ticket.
With me so far? This is where things start to get obscure. Our heroes fall in love. He then discovers a baby by the shore, which is followed by an intense, violent showdown to get the prized ticket. Just when the film prepares us for a dark crusade over a tumultuous sea, or perhaps a crisis wherein our heroes end up hunted, or some sort of spiritual journey of existential discovery, it jarringly cuts to over three decades into the future. We’re at minute 30 here. Ballsy move, Bateman.
"…there’s only so long one can stare at an abstract painting."