Directed by: Micha Wald | 85 minutes | drama, adventure, family | Actors: Gregoire Colin, Dupont Francois-Rene, Adrien Jolivet, Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet, Corentin Lobet, Igor Skreblin, Mylene St-Sauveur
Brotherly love in its purest form, that is what Micha Wald shows us in this film. Back to the basics of everything. Both in family love, and in a primal feeling of revenge and aggression. The storyline, set in nineteenth-century Eastern Europe, is also simple. It is a base that is slowly being built around. This basis and purity is further substantiated by the role that nature and music play in “Voleurs de chevaux”. Full colors, the rustling of the wind through the trees and the wind instruments of Stephan Micus that meet you, let you taste the adventure and the fairytale yet simple atmosphere perfectly. As the film progresses, the character Jakub, Vladimir’s brother, takes shape. As mentioned, the base of his character is being built around. He grows into someone who knows who he is. To get there he needs his brother, to see that he himself is the strongest.
Like Jakub, Elias, first oppressed by his brother Roman and presented as the weakest, gets a clear picture of what he does and does not want in the course of the story. The contrasts within the two brother sets are subtle and yet very clear. For a moment Wald seems to deviate from this subtlety when Vladimir collapses in the Cossack camp and almost pretends to be mentally handicapped. Where the acting generally comes across as realistic, this point is over-acted. The battle between the Cossack brothers and the freebooter brothers Roman and Elias is just as clear and poignant as the battle between the brothers. It is a struggle of good against evil in which both parties naturally think they embody the “good”. As a family you go through fire for each other. This ideal is strongly emphasized throughout the film. Brothers who support each other in the worst of times and therefore keep their feet going. The intimacy that comes with this is beautiful. Crawl into bed with your brother because you are cold, a close embrace, it does not happen so quickly nowadays because of possible strange reactions from the outside world. The rawness of the film keeps you looking tense. The oppression and the mutual hatred and envy in the Cossack camp that Jakub and Vladimir experience is hard, but because of that real. The fights and chases are fierce and exciting despite the predictability that Jakub will not die. The willpower with which Jakub tries to prove himself in the camp is impressive and endearing at the same time. He pursues a childhood dream to the fullest, which may only lead to disappointment.
Strolling through the woods and stealing the horses, the task of Roman and Elias, takes you into his adventure. Although Elias’ horse whispers don’t seem very believable, you remain fascinated by the nature around the characters and the pure form of survival. Because in addition to their ideals that are sometimes difficult to achieve, that is what all four brothers do: survive, no more than that. And you don’t blame them. You enjoy their aimless wandering through nature and attending some village festivals every now and then, without any other purpose than living and letting each other live. It can be said that “Voleurs des chevaux” in all its purity is a real man’s film about proving yourself, cock behavior and revenge. Women play a marginal and conservative role. They are there to comfort and nurture. Yet this is not a major drawback in the perspective and time frame of this film. Wald wants to show us true brotherly love and he succeeded. Doubts remain about the title. Why is there such an emphasis here on stealing the horses. Does the director want to keep it light, or does he think the horse thieves are the common thread for this story. The film seems to have much more important themes such as family love, struggle and revenge. An interesting point that does not alter the fact that Wald has gotten a catchy film on the screen, which takes you to an idealistic, adventurous world.