Sci-fi is a broad church; for every cowboys and aliens laser-gun spectacular, there’s a thoughtful, meditative think-piece; the key thing is the idea. Nicholas Aske Bateman’s debut film is very much in the latter camp; if you dug films like Undergods, Red Moon Tide or Upstream Color, you’ll know the kind of movie we’re talking about. The Wanting Mare has an obscure title, and pushes hard against our expectations of what a film might be. It’s hard-going at times, but the pay-off is good, and sci-fi fans with open minds will want to check this out.
Where to begin explaining this story? We’re in a post apocalyptic place named Anmaere, and there’s few connections to the world we know. The populace hunger, not for food or fuel, but for tickets that might allow them to travel on a boat loaded with horses that leaves every year from the port of Whithren to travel to the promised land of Levithen. A mother passes her dream, and her curse, to daughter Moira (Jordan Monaghan), whose coast-line reveries are interrupted by an intruder (played by Bateman) who might offer the ticket she seeks.
What does this mean? Is the horse ship symbolic of love, life or death? Since we rarely get a look at what’s mentioned, it’s hard to put an exact value on the elusive images, which are always good to look at. With some location shooting, Bateman created the bulk of The Wanting Mare in a studio in Brooklyn, making creative use of green screen and attesting to the influence of David Lowrey’s The Green Knight, which Bateman worked on as a VFX artist. The result is an elusive, poetic film that seems to be fizzling out before the narrative kicks in with a surprisingly satisfying ending.
Leaping forward in time, yet looking at how several generations of Moria’s family wrestle with the challenge of transcending their environment, The Wanting Mare is a unique film that works as a mood piece, but also dazzles the eye with some world-building that’s aiming at something more than a franchise. The Wanting Mare is a tricky, difficult film, but those seeking to have their minds blown won’t be disappointed if they pay close attention.
The Wanting Mare is available to rent or own on digital HD from Bulldog Film Distribution on 7 February 2022