Monday, September 19, 2011
"Buck" A Pret'near Perfect Picture
As a rule, I don't review documentaries. But I'm making an exception because, "Buck," is one of the most inspiring films I have ever seen.
"Buck" is pret'near perfect picture. You have your likeable hero, Buck Brannaman, a wounded soul who overcame an abusive childhood and personal weaknesses to forge a better path in training horses. When he started his horse clinics, he couldn't even look people in the eye but he grew to be a gifted teacher. And, boy, is it entertaining. At six, Buck was a professional trick roper. There are nostalgic clips of him on “What's My Line” and as the spokesman for Sugar Puffs cereal. He was the inspiration behind the movie, “The Horse Whisperer.” Robert Redford talks about working with Buck on the set. When the Hollywood trainer couldn't get the trick horse to perform the action needed for the scene, Buck got his own horse to do it in 15 minutes. The horse came right up to young Sharlett Johansson and put it's head against hers. It brought the whole crew to tears.
Buck is very intuitive in his understanding of horses. He demonstrates a way to train the horse that the animal can relate too. “It is all a dance,” he says. It's about trust and balance, not about force. He's looking for the horse to follow his “feel.” Before he even gets on the horse, he has the horse on the end of the lead rope (with a bit of slack) and directs it.
There is a history of abuse in training horses - the very idea that a man has to “break” this big animal to show that he is stronger. It takes a tortured soul to understand the abuse these animals have gone through. Having survived being abused himself, Buck is sensitive to their reaction to being “broken.” Buck explains “When something is scared for it's life, I understand that.”
Buck has risen above his traumatic upbringing. His experience taught him to be an empathetic reader of horses and people. And he deals with all kinds – colts that have never been ridden to troubled stallions. “A lot of the times instead of helping people with horse problems, I'm helping horses with people problems,” he shares. “All of your horses are a mirror to your soul. Sometimes you might not like what you see.” In a dramatic, heartbreaking sequence, he confronts the wounded owner of a vicious, out of control animal. “Maybe there's some things for you to learn about you. Maybe the horse is gonna be the only damn way you're gonna learn it.”
The thing that really stands out in this film is it's humanity. Through working with their horses, the owners are transformed. They learn to let go of trying to force their will on others. “If you find a way to fit this thing right here, it'll make you better. It'll make you better in areas you didn't think related to horses.”
You don't have to be a cowboy to enjoy this film. I took my city-slicker boys to be inspired by Buck.