Equus (film)

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Equus is a 1977 film about a troubled and lonely adolescent who, after blinding six horses with a spike, is treated by a brilliant and understanding psychiatrist. As the psychiatrist learns more and more about the adolescent's motivations he begins to question his own ideas of God, belief and ritual.

Directed by Sidney Lumet. Written by Peter Shaffer, based on his play.
I am yours and you are mine

Martin Dysart[edit]

  • Afterwards, he says, they always embrace. The animal digs his sweaty brow into his cheek and they stand in the dark for an hour, like a necking couple. And of all nonsensical things, I keep thinking about the horse - not the boy, the horse - and what he might be trying to do. I keep seeing the huge head, kissing him with its chained mouth nudging through the metal, some desire absolutely irrelevant of filling its belly or propagating its own kind. What desire could this be? Not to stay a horse any longer? Not to remain reined up forever in those particular genetic strings? Is it possible, at moments we can't imagine, a horse can add its sufferings together, the non-stop jerks and jabs that are its daily life, and turn them into grief? What use is grief to a horse? You see, I'm lost. What use, I should be asking, are questions like these to an overworked psychiatrist in a provincial hospital? They're worse than useless - they are, in fact, subversive.
  • The thing is, I'm wearing that horse's head myself, all reined up in old language and old assumptions, straining to jump clean hoofed onto a new track of being that only I suspect is there. I can't see it, because my educated, average head is being held at the wrong angle. I can't jump, because the bit forbids it and my own basic force - my horsepower, if you like - is too little. The only thing I know for sure is this: A horse's head is finally unknowable to me. Yet I handle childrens' heads, which I presume to be more complicated, at least in the area of my chief concern. In a way, it has nothing to do with this boy - the doubts have been there for years, piling up steadily in this dreary place - it's the extremity of this case that's made them active. I know extremity is the point. All the same, whatever the reasons, these doubts are not just vaguely worrying, but intolerable.
  • Forgive me. I'm not making much sense. Let me start properly, in order.
  • That's what his stare has been saying to me all this time: "At least I galloped — when did you?"
  • Worship all you can see, and more will appear.
  • All right! The normal is the good smile in a child's eyes. There's also the dead stare in a million adults. It both sustains and kills, like a god. It is the ordinary made beautiful, it is also the average made lethal. Normal is the indispensable murderous God of health and I am his priest.
  • Know that, when Equus leaves — if he leaves at all — it will be with your intestines in his teeth — and I don't stock replacements.
  • Alright, I take it away, what then? He'd feel himself acceptable, what then? Do you think feelings like his can be simply re-attached, just like plasters stuck on other objects we select? I mean, look at him! My desire might be to make of this boy an ardent husband, a caring citizen, a worshipper of abstract and unifying God; my achievement, however, is more likely to make a ghost. I heal the rash on his body, I'll erase the welts cut into his mind by flying manes and when that's done I'll put him on a metal scooter and send him puttering off into the concrete world and he'll never touch hide again. Hopefully he'll feel nothing at his fork but approved flesh, I doubt, however, with much passion!
  • Passion, you see, can be destroyed by a doctor. It cannot be created. You won't gallop anymore, Alan, the horses will be quite safe. You can save your money each week and change that scooter for a car. You'll spend glorious weekends grooming that. You'll pop round to the betting shops and put fifty pence on a nag, forgetting they ever meant anything more to you than bearers of little profits and little losses. You will, however, be without pain; almost completely without...pain.. and now... for me... it never stops... the voice of Equus, out of the cave.
  • Why me? Why me? First, account for me.
  • How can I? In an ultimate sense, I cannot know what I do in this place, but I do ultimate things, irreversible things and I, I stand in the dark with a blade in my hand, striking at heads, I need, more desperately than my children need me, a way of seeing in the dark; what way is this? what dark is this? I cannot call it "ordained of God" — I cannot go so far. I will however, pay it so much homage. There is now, in my mouth, this sharp chain. And it never comes out.

Alan Strang[edit]

  • Double your pleasure, double your fun with double good double good double mint gum.
  • It WAS sexy! That's what you wanted to know, isn't it?
  • And Flequs spoke out of his chinkle chankle and he said "Behold, I give you Equus, my only begotten son."
  • 'My uncle dressed for the horse', she says. But what does that mean? Horse isn't dressed, it's naked. It's the most naked thing you ever saw, more than a dog or a cat or anything. Even the brokenest-down old nag has got it's life - to put a bowler hat on top of it... it's filthy. Putting them through their paces, bloody horse shows, how do they dare? No-one understands, no-one. Except cowboys. They do. But they're free, they just swing up and it's nothing but miles of grass. I bet all cowboys are orphans. I bet they are. No-one ever says to cowboys 'receive my meaning' or 'God.' 'All the time God sees you, Alan, God's got eyes everywhere.' No, I'm not doing anymore, I hate this. You can whistle for anymore, I've had it.
  • Prince begat Prance. And Prance begat Prankus. And Prankus begat Flankus. And Flankus begat Spankus. And Spankus begat Spunkus the Great, who lived threescore years. And Leckwus begat Neckwus. And Neckwus begat Fleckwus, the King of Spit. And Fleckwus spoke out of his chinkle-chankle...
  • And he said 'Behold, I give you Equus, my only begotten son.'


  • Dora Strang: Alan is himself. Every soul is itself. If you added up everything we ever did to him, from his first day on earth to this, you wouldn't find why he did this terrible thing... because that's him: not just all of our things added up.


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