The Silver Brumby (1993)


Australia. 1993.


Director – John Tatoulis, Screenplay – John Tatoulis & Jon Stevens, Based on the Novel by Elyne Mitchell, Producer – Colin J. South, Photography – Mark Gilfedder, Music – Tassos Ioamides, Special Effects Supervisor – Brian Pearce, Production Design – Phil Chambers. Production Company – Media World Features


Caroline Goodall (Elyne Mitchell), Russell Crowe (The Man), Ami Daemion (Indi Mitchell)


To help her daughter Indi get to sleep one stormy night, Elyne Mitchell makes up a story about a mythical silver brumby horse that roams the High Country. The next morning, Indi finds her mother writing a story about the brumby named Thowra. In the story, she tells how it became the leader of the wild Cascade Brumbies and how it was obsessively hunted by a man who had been humiliated by it. Indi then meets the man and realises that her mother is basing the story on real life.

The Silver Brumby is adapted from the first book in Elyne Mitchell’s series of popular children’s books. Mitchell began publishing The Silver Brumby (1955) and published a further thirteen books that detail the lives of the Silver Brumby horses up until her death in 2002.

Making a film where the central characters are horses though is not an easy task unless one is prepared to resort to animation or nature film footage with dubbed over voices, or go the Babe (1995) route and use animatronics. [Similar things were tried with the animated Spirit: Stallion of Cimmaron (2002)]. The film takes neither course so in order to tell its story, it has to invent the recursive structure of having Caroline Goodall (playing Mitchell) write the story for her daughter in order to narrate the tale. It is a device that has a distancing effect – unlike in the books, the horses are now no longer the central characters – although it does allow the various horses to be imbued with enough character to be sympathetic.

Ultimately though, the various inter-horse and horse-human politicking is not that interesting (unless one wants to see Russell Crowe before he got famous). Young girls who like horses will probably like it but as a children’s tale, the film is oddly plodding. The outer story tends to get somewhat silly at times – the scenes of British-born Caroline Goodall, who hardly convinces as a High Country wife, imparting Aboriginal mysticism, Bush Country wisdom and lessons in growing up to daughter Ami Daemion come out unintentionally funny. The main appeal of the film is principally a visual one – the shots of the horses prancing in slow-motion are great and the helicopter tracking shots of them racing across the landscape, accompanied by eerie music, is often exhilarating.

The books were later made into an animated series The Silver Brumby (1998), which lasted 39 episodes, and actually comes closer to the books in spirit than this film does.

Director John Tatoulis has mostly produced television. His only other effort of genre note was the obscure science-fiction film Zone 39 (1996).

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