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Spotlight: A Tale of Life, Land, Loss, and Horses

By David Schonauer   Tuesday November 5, 2019


Take a breath before watching the documentary Inhale.

Filmmaker Sean Mullan offers up an eyeful of visual details — from tadpoles and tea kettles to fire embers and faces, both human and otherwise — and an earful, with a haunting soundtrack by cellist Kim Vaughan, Mullan’s cousin.

The visuals come in a variety of forms: close-up footage, aerial drone shots, and slow motion, all of which are combined to tell a powerful story that seems to be about his Uncle Jim’s secrets for training horses. But the 16-minute film evolves into what Short of the Week recently called “an existential tale examining mortality.”

“Inhale is an almost meditative piece, that allows plenty of space for self-reflection,” writes Rob Munday.

At Vimeo, Mullan sums up the film this way: “Through horses, a man feels an irrepressible duty to move in harmony with his pain. A film exploring the infinite momentum of life via an energy never destroyed, only transformed.”

The pain came from the loss of a wife. The harmony is expressed when Jim describes his ideas about horses. “Teach it, as opposed to the word break it,” he says. “Let it have its own soul. Develop it. Work with it. Don’t ever show it anger.”

The film, notes SOTW, was shot over a 14-day period. “Traditional in terms of themes, Inhale’s more abstract filmmaking approach may be a little off-putting for some viewers,” writes Munday. “It feels at times that Mullan is more interested in the tone and rhythm of the film than he is the story, but for me this is what made it standout, this is what drew me to it.”

“I wanted to give Jim’s words a visual truth,” Mullan says. “I needed to channel that sensation of shared time that is cinema. I felt Jim’s life was a place to explore the difficult, complicated, conflicting and philosophical questions about acceptance, life and mortality.”

He adds, “I was so intrigued to collaborate with Jim’s land, horses, body and mind. The physicality of all four are visuals that display a particular balance between strength and fragility. They let you feel and almost smell the pressures of time, something heavy but lightly fleeting away. To capture and revisit, even for a moment, a shared experience in hope and memory.”

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